Israel starts offering 3rd Covid shot to older citizensEuropost
Israel’s PM Naftali Bennett on Thursday announced that the country would offer a coronavirus booster to people over 60 who have already been vaccinated, news wires reported. The decision makes Israel, which launched one of the world’s most successful vaccination drives earlier this year, the first country to offer a third dose of a Western vaccine to its citizens on a wide scale. The move comes at a time of rising infections and signs that the vaccine’s efficacy dwindles over time.
“I’m announcing this evening the beginning of the campaign to receive the booster vaccine, the third vaccine,” Bennett said in a nationally televised address. “Reality proves the vaccines are safe. Reality also proves the vaccines protect against severe morbidity and death. And like the flu vaccine that needs to be renewed from time to time, it is the same in this case.”
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 get the booster on Friday. It will also be offered to the general public. Bennett, who is 49, said his first call after the news conference would be to his mother to encourage her to get her booster shot.
Neither the US nor the EU have approved coronavirus booster shots, AP noted It’s not yet proven if a third dose helps and, if so, who needs one and when.
But Bennett said that a team of expert advisers had agreed overwhelmingly, by a 56-1 margin, that it made sense to launch the booster campaign. He said the recommendation was made after “considerable research and analysis” and that its information would be shared around the world. Preliminary studies in Israel have indicated the vaccine’s protection against serious illness dropped among those vaccinated in January.
Previously, boosters were used in some countries with the Chinese and Russian vaccines. Over 57% of the country’s 9.3 million citizens have received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and over 80% of the population over 40 is vaccinated.
Pfizer said Wednesday that the effectiveness of the vaccine drops slightly six months after the second dose. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have said they plan to seek authorization for boosters in August. Most studies — and real-world data from Britain and the US — so far show that the Pfizer vaccine remains powerfully protective against serious illness. Just Wednesday, Pfizer released data from its long-running 44,000-person study showing that while protection against any symptomatic infection declined slightly six months after immunization, protection against severe Covid-19 remained at nearly 97%.
The World Health Organization said earlier this month that there is not enough evidence to show that a third dose is needed.