The COVID-19 pandemic posed many dilemmas for policymakers, which sometimes resulted in unprecedented decision-making

Nachman Ash, Noa Triki, Ruth Waitzberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic evolved through five phases, beginning with ‘the great threat’, then moving through ‘the emergence of variants', ‘vaccines euphoria’, and ‘the disillusionment’, and culminating in ‘a disease we can live with’. Each phase required a different governance response. With the progress of the pandemic, data were collected, evidence was created, and health technology was developed and disseminated. Policymaking shifted from protecting the population by limiting infections with non-pharmaceutical interventions to controlling the pandemic by prevention of severe disease with vaccines and drugs for those infected. Once the vaccine became available, the state started devolving the responsibility for the individual’s health and behavior. Main body: Each phase of the pandemic posed new and unique dilemmas for policymakers, which resulted in unprecedented decision-making. Restrictions to individual’s rights such as a lockdown or the ‘Green Pass policy’ were unimaginable before the pandemic. One of the most striking decisions that the Ministry of Health made was approving the third (booster) vaccine dose in Israel, before it was approved by the FDA or any other country. It was possible to make an informed, evidence-based decision due to the availability of reliable and timely data. Transparent communication with the public probably promoted adherence to the booster dose recommendation. The boosters made an important contribution to public health, even though their uptake was less than the uptake for the initial doses. The decision to approve the booster illustrates seven key lessons from the pandemic: health technology is key; leadership is crucial (both political and professional); a single body should coordinate the actions of all stakeholders involved in the response, and these should collaborate closely; policymakers need to engage the public and win their trust and compliance; data are essential to build a suitable response; and nations and international organizations should collaborate in preparing for and responding to pandemics, because viruses travel without borders. Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic posed many dilemmas for policymakers. The lessons learned from the actions taken to deal with them should be incorporated into preparedness for future challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13
JournalIsrael Journal of Health Policy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • COVID-19 vaccine booster
  • Decision-making
  • Health policy
  • Pandemic response

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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