The Israeli prime minister announced Thursday that the country will offer a coronavirus booster to people over 60 who have already been vaccinated.
Naftali Bennett’s announcement makes Israel the first country to offer a third dose of the Pfizer / BioNtech 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.
In a nationally televised address, Bennett said the country’s President Isaac Herzog would be the first to receive the recall on Friday. It will be offered to the general public on Sunday.
Bennett 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. The strategy’s first major study begins in thousands of patients in Norway.
Previously, boosters were used in some countries with Chinese and Russian vaccines.
Earlier this year, Israel conducted one of the most aggressive and successful vaccination campaigns in the world. 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 there are signs the vaccine’s effectiveness wears off over time, and Israel has seen a spike in cases of the new delta variant, even among those vaccinated.
People over 60 who were vaccinated more than five months ago will be eligible for the booster. Maccabi, one of Israel’s four state-funded health maintenance organizations, said its members can already register and vaccinations will begin on Sunday.