Israel to become first country to offer fourth Covid vaccine dose

Israel’s PM claims a fourth dose ‘will help us overcome the Omicron wave’

Holly Bancroft
Wednesday 22 December 2021 14:53
<p>An Israeli health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a student</p>

An Israeli health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a student

In a world first, Israel has announced that it will offer a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine to people over the age of 60.

The decision, recommended by a health ministry expert panel, was hailed as “great news” by Prime minister Naftali Bennett. He said that the measure “will help us overcome the Omicron wave that is spreading around the world”.

The Israeli government’s pandemic information centre announced the news on Twitter on Tuesday, saying: “Israel will become the first country in the world to administer the fourth [dose of a] Covid-19 vaccine. The first group eligible will be people age 60 [and over and] medical personnel.”

Prime minister Bennett urged people to get the fourth dose. He said: “My message is - don’t waste time, go get vaccinated.”

As of Tuesday there were 340 known cases of Omicron in Israel, according to the health ministry.

Israel rolled out its vaccine effort at the world’s fastest rate, and was the first to start delivering third doses this summer.

Despite this, only about 63 percent of its population of 9.3 million has had two doses. This is partly to do with Israel being a relatively young country. Over four million Israelis have received the third dose.

Research on the effectiveness of a fourth dose of the vaccine is being carried out by the Sheba Medical Centre but it has not yet been published. Scientists at the centre are trialing a fourth vaccine shot in around 200 volunteers and examining the effect on their antibody levels.

Professor Galia Rahav, who is on the health ministry’s expert panel, said that the decision to recommend a fourth vaccine dose was “not simple” because of a lack of data.

However she referred to the spread of the Omicron variant, saying: “But at the same time, there are terribly frightening numbers from what is happening in the wider world.”

It had been reported that a man in his 60s with “many severe” pre-existing medical conditions had died on Monday with the Omicron variant. However the hospital that reported this ‘first’ Omicron death have since clarified that they got this wrong and the patient had in fact had the Delta variant.

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