The Israeli prime minister announced that the country will offer a coronavirus booster vaccine to people over 60 who have already been vaccinated.
Naftali Bennett’s announcement makes Israel, which launched one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns earlier this year, the first country to offer a third dose of a Western vaccine to its citizens on a large scale .
“I am announcing the start of the campaign tonight to receive the booster vaccine, the third vaccine,” Bennett said in a nationally televised address. “Reality shows that vaccines are safe. Reality also shows that vaccines protect against severe morbidity and death. And like the flu shot that needs to be renewed from time to time, so it is in this case. “
The decision comes at a time of increasing infections and signs that the vaccine’s effectiveness is waning over time.
Anyone over 60 who was vaccinated more than five months ago will be eligible. Bennett said the country’s new president, Isaac Herzog, would be the first to receive the recall on Friday. It will also be offered to the general public.
Bennett, who is 49, said his first call after the press conference would be to his mother to encourage her to get the vaccine.
Neither the US nor the EU have approved the coronavirus booster injections. It is not yet proven whether a third dose helps and, if so, who needs it and when.
But Bennett said a team of expert advisers agreed overwhelmingly, by a 56-1 margin, that it made sense to launch the recall campaign. He said the recommendation was made after “considerable research and analysis” and that his information would be shared around the world. Preliminary studies in Israel have indicated that the vaccine’s protection against serious illness has declined in people vaccinated in January.
“The results show that there is a decline in the body’s immunity over time, and the purpose of the booster is to strengthen it, thereby significantly reducing the risk of infection and serious illness,” Bennett said.
Israel has used the Pfizer / BioNtech vaccine on its population. Previously, boosters were used in some countries with Chinese and Russian vaccines.
Earlier this year, Israel ran one of the most aggressive and successful vaccination campaigns in the world, making a deal with Pfizer to purchase enough vaccine for its population in return for sharing its data with the drug maker. medications.
More than 57% of the country’s 9.3 million citizens have received two doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, and more than 80% of the population over 40 is vaccinated.
The vaccination program allowed Israel to reopen its economy before other countries. But Israel has seen a spike in cases of the new delta variant, even among those vaccinated. Bennett urged unvaccinated Israelis, especially young people who hesitated, to get vaccinated immediately.
Earlier this month, Israel began giving people with weakened immune systems a third chance to increase their resilience against Covid-19.
Pfizer said on Wednesday that the vaccine’s effectiveness drops slightly six months after the second dose. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced their intention to seek approval for the boosters in August.
Most studies – and real data from Britain and the United States – so far show that the Pfizer vaccine remains powerfully protective against serious illness. On Wednesday alone, Pfizer released data from its long-standing study of 44,000 people showing that while protection against any symptomatic infection declined slightly six months after vaccination, protection against severe Covid-19 remained at nearly 97%. Earlier this month, Israel’s health ministry announced protection against serious illnesses to be around 93%.
The World Health Organization said earlier this month that there was not enough evidence to show that a third dose was needed.
Agency officials called on richer countries to share vaccines with poorer countries that have yet to vaccinate their populations, instead of using them as reminders. Israel itself has been criticized for not sharing more of its vaccines with the Palestinians.
Israel’s health ministry on Thursday recorded at least 2,165 new cases of the coronavirus, after an accelerated rise in infections over the past month. Severe cases of Covid-19 have increased from 19 per day in mid-June to 159 as the highly infectious delta variant has spread.
Thanks to its successful vaccination campaign, Israel lifted nearly all of its coronavirus restrictions this spring. But with the return of new cases, the country has tried to stop the spread of the highly infectious delta variant by reimposing restrictions on gatherings, re-establishing a “green pass” system allowing vaccinated people to enter certain areas. enclosed spaces and an indoor mask warrant.