Residents of Israel and Bahrain who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots and don’t get them risk losing their vaccination status granting them access to everything from restaurants to shopping malls.
Israel was the first country to make a booster shot a requirement for “Green Pass” digital vaccination passports, which allow individuals to enter everything from hotels, cinemas, gyms, and restaurants, to places of worship.
Under new guidelines issued on Oct. 3, the validity of the previous Green Pass was shortened, and any pass issued prior to this date was made void.
According to a government advisory, the Green Pass will now only be available to people who can prove they have had a booster shot of a government-approved COVID-19 vaccine after their previous two doses expired after six months, or have recovered from the disease.
People who have recovered from COVID-19 once or twice and have not been vaccinated are eligible for a pass valid for up to six months from the date of the last certificate of recovery under a different set of guidelines. Those who’ve recovered but have received only one vaccine dose before or after recovery are eligible for a Green Pass valid through the end of March 2022.
Those who have received only one dose aren’t eligible for a Green Pass, even if they test positive on a serologic test after vaccination. It hasn’t been confirmed whether further booster shots will be needed in the future for an individual to be considered fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, those who have been vaccinated or who have recovered outside of Israel may or may not be eligible for a Green Pass depending on the number of doses of the vaccine that they have received and on the results of serologic and PCR tests in Israel.
People who decide not to get a booster shot are still able to enter venues with a negative PCR or antigenic test taken 24 hours prior, according to a statement by Israel’s Ministry of Health Deputy Director-General Dr. Asher Salmon.
Israel’s new system replaces its previous system that required just two shots to become eligible for a Green Pass.
“We believe everyone should be getting a third shot. We are basically telling people that if they have not already done so, they are not fully vaccinated,” Salmon said.
The new policy prompted scores of protesters to take to Israeli streets in demonstrations around the country as more than 2 million people risk losing their vaccination passports.
Israel isn’t the only country to take a hardline approach to vaccination passports, as Bahrain has also changed the vaccination status of those eligible for a booster shot on Oct. 4.
As of that date, individuals who are eligible for a booster shot will see their vaccination status lowered from the “Green Shield” to the “Yellow Shield” on the kingdom’s digital vaccine passport, the BeAware mobile application, if they don’t receive a booster shot.
Previously, individuals were considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose and were given “Green Shield” status, meaning they were able to enter shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas, and other indoor services.
The topic of booster shots has left health professionals and experts divided.
On Oct. 12, scientists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said they weren’t taking a stance on a proposal to authorize booster shots of Moderna’s vaccine after the company noted waning effectiveness against COVID-19 infection.
FDA staff said the vaccine and the two others cleared for use in the United States are still holding up well against severe disease.
Meanwhile, U.S. drug regulators on Oct. 13 said a second shot of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine could bolster people’s protection against the disease, but they didn’t have enough time to independently analyze the data the company submitted.
Both Johnson & Johnson and Moderna are asking regulators to allow boosters for their vaccines following the FDA’s clearance of a Pfizer booster for tens of millions of Americans.