The decision, confirmed Monday by the Department of Health, comes as US and European health authorities debate the need for booster vaccines. At the end of last month, the UK gave provisional support to a recall campaign from September. Pfizer announced last week that it would ask regulators to approve them. Other countries dependent on Chinese vaccines have offered booster shots.
Israel has been widely hailed for rolling out one of the fastest vaccination campaigns in the world after securing regular supplies of vaccine from Pfizer in return for providing data.
But infection rates are rising sharply in Israel due to the highly transmissible Delta variant. The number of cases has reached over 400 per day, after weeks of single-digit daily infections. However, only 47 of the 4,000 nationally active cases are considered to involve serious illness, with health experts insisting that the two-dose Pfizer vaccine continues to offer strong protection against hospitalization and death. .
In a statement released late last week, Pfizer and BioNTech said that a third dose “has the potential to preserve the highest levels of protective efficacy against all currently known variants, including Delta.” The companies were still working on an updated version of their vaccine “that targets the complete spike protein of the Delta variant”.
According to Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, a booster would be made available to adults with severe immunodeficiency, who have recently had an organ transplant or are generally considered to be at risk.
The Department of Health recommends that the third jab be given between four and eight weeks after the second dose of Pfizer, with the approval of a family doctor. For some specific risk groups, the ministry has also recommended that they undergo an antibody test after the second and third dose, although this is not a prerequisite.
“It is not uncommon in medicine to use ‘off-label’ drugs, which are not exactly according to the same protocols as those used in clinical studies,” said Dr Eyal Leshem, expert in infectious diseases. at Sheba Medical Center. “It’s safe, effective and based on clinical judgment. ”
As part of Israel’s vaccination campaign, which began in December, more than 5 million of the country’s 9 million citizens have been fully immunized with two doses spread three weeks apart. Health officials recently launched a campaign to immunize adolescents as well, with around 200,000 over the age of 12 having received their first vaccine in the past two weeks.
After completely reopening its economy in the spring and abandoning all Covid restrictions last month, Israel recently began reinstating new limitations, including making masks mandatory for indoor gatherings and public transport. Additional measures, such as a stricter quarantine for travelers and more extensive testing for children, should be introduced. Israel could even bring back the “green pass,” which allowed greater freedom for those vaccinated.
« [Booster shots for at-risk populations are] probably more important than just vaccinating a few 20-year-olds, ”Leshem added. “It’s plausible that you can save more lives with this step. ”