Israel started administering fourth shots of the COVID-19 vaccine Friday amid a wave of new cases driven by the Omicron variant.
The country is administering the extra dose to people with weakened immune systems, as well as elderly residents and employees in care homes, said Israel’s top government health official.
The rollout of the fourth shot started with heart-and-lung transplant patients at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center on Friday morning.
Israel — which had the highest percentage of its 9.3 million residents vaxxed than any other country in late 2020 and early this year — is one of the first nations to allow the fourth dose.
It was among the first countries to roll out Pfizer’s vaccine a year ago and began dishing out “boosters” of it over the summer. Pfizer uses the full amount of regular doses for its boosters, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The country then started administering several hundred thousand doses of Moderna’s vaccine in August, too – and expects to have additional shipments in 2022. Moderna’s booster dose is half the amount of its regular shot, the CDC says.
The majority of Israel’s population — more than 6.5 million people — has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. More than 4.2 million have received two shots and a third dose.
The administering of the fourth dose comes as the country experiences a new wave of infections caused by the Omicron variant.
There were 4,085 new cases recorded Thursday, which was the highest daily count in Israel in three months.
Israel has reported 8,243 deaths from COVID since the start of the pandemic.
“Israel will lead the way in administering a fourth vaccine [dose] to the Israeli people,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement.
“Israel’s strategy for overcoming omicron is clear: The greater the wave, the greater the protection we will need to overcome it.”
As for the US, experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci have said more research is needed about how well third boosters prevent severe COVID before people should think about a fourth dose.
“Before we start talking about a fourth shot, it would be very important for us to determine the durability of protection, particularly against severe disease, for the third-shot booster of an mRNA [vaccine] and the second shot of a [Johnson & Johnson],” Fauci said at a White House COVID-19 task-force press briefing Thursday.
He admitted it was possible that more protection will be necessary against the variant, given Omicron has been better at evading the immunity provided by vaccines.
“It is conceivable that in the future, we might need an additional shot, but right now, we are hoping that we will get a greater degree of durability of protection from that [third] booster shot,” Fauci said.
“So we’re going to take one step at a time, get the data from the third boost and then make decisions based on scientific data.”
With Post wires