The Israeli government announced it will offer a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to citizens over 60 years old, amid ongoing efforts to slow the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the CCP virus.
Naftali Bennett, the Israeli prime minister, announced in a statement on Friday that President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal were among the first to receive the booster in the country.
Israel had launched a national vaccination campaign in December 2020 and many seniors, regarded as among the more vulnerable in the population received their shots in the starting months of the rollout.
The country has seen more than 57 percent of its 9.3 million people fully vaccinated, with 63 percent having had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which uses mRNA technology.
But since the Delta variant began to spread, the Israeli health ministry reported a drop in the vaccine’s efficacy against infection twice—in early and late July—as well as a slight decrease in its protection against severe disease.
The Israeli ministry of health announced on Friday it recorded 2,140 new CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus cases in the past day, up from a handful of cases per day a few months ago. The ministry reported 167 people are suffering from severe disease.
Last week, the health ministry estimated the vaccine was only 41 percent effective at halting symptomatic infections over the past month. Protection against severe disease remained strong at 91 percent.
The booster campaign, with shots administered by health maintenance organizations, will effectively turn Israel into a testing ground for a third dose.
“Findings show that there is a decline in the body’s immunity over time. The aim of the supplementary dose is to build it up again, and thus reduce the chances of infection and serious illness significantly,” Bennett, 49, told a news conference.
Those over 60 who were vaccinated over five months ago will be eligible. Bennett said that all the seniors who already had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine should “go get the supplementary one” and that he will be calling his own mother to tell her about the new jab.
In a statement translated from Hebrew, Bennett said, “We are embarking on the vaccines campaign to safeguard the older population in the State of Israel. From today there is a new mitzvah: ‘Vaccinate your father and your mother that they may live long.'”
Pfizer said Wednesday it believes people need the additional dose to maintain a high protection against the CCP virus, reported Reuters.
In early July, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA said in a joint statement that Americans “do not need a booster shot at this time,” just hours after Pfizer’s chief scientific officer said earlier in the day that it wanted emergency authorization in August.
Earlier in July, Israel had begun giving people with weakened immune systems a third shot in efforts to further protect them against the CCP virus.
Israel has logged 6,466 CCP virus deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Per the new rules, unvaccinated people can present PCR test results, which are valid for 72 hours and can be obtained free of charge, to enter venues that require a vaccine passport. An alternative is to present rapid test results, which are valid for 24 hours. After Aug. 8, only rapid test results will be accepted, and unvaccinated people must pay to do the test.
Reuters contributed to this report.