Israel announced that it will begin rolling out a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to its senior citizens on Tuesday, after the country’s leading medical experts decided that it was the best way to combat the recent wave. A person will become eligible four months after receiving the third dose, where it will be available to those over 60 years old, people with suppressed immune systems, and medical workers.
In Israel, almost everyone who has been vaccinated received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, with Reuters reporting that 91.1% of the country’s total population has been vaccinated.
Due to the recent surge, Israel records around 1,000 new cases of coronavirus everyday. The country announced 341 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, according to CNN, with another 800 suspected cases.
“We don’t really have data yet on the level of immunity, like we did when we decided on the third dose, but on the other hand, there is really scary data out there in the rest of the world,” said Professor Galia Rahav, a member of Israel’s panel of medical experts tackling Covid-19.
“In a situation like this,” she stated, “if you don’t act immediately, you miss the train.”
The decision to administer a fourth dose was a very tough decision, according to Rahav, favored by 86% of the medical panel. The ruling will still need final approval from Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash before it can go into effect, which is likely due to additional support from Israel’s Prime Minister.
“This is wonderful news that will assist us in getting through the Omicron wave that is engulfing the world,” said Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. “The citizens of Israel were the first in the world to receive the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and we are continuing to pioneer with the fourth dose as well.”
The Health Ministry previously warned of a cautionary outlook surrounding a fourth dose, citing lack of study about it effects, but Bennett was reportedly “impatiently” waiting to begin a fourth dose rollout. Viewing this new wave as unstoppable, the government decided to reinstitute policies such as a ban on international travel and a cap to public workplace numbers.
Israel has long led the globe in coronavirus vaccine rollout measures, issuing the third dose “booster shot” to its citizens back in July. In the country, citizens are also not considered fully vaccinated unless they have received the third dose.
Israel was also one of the first countries to introduce the idea of a “vaccine passport,” as well as provide the earliest data to suggest that booster shots were helping to make contracting coronavirus much less deadly.
In many parts of the country, however, which houses a population of around 9.2 million people, many children will sadly find themselves back in online schooling as Omicron surges. In areas designated as “red” or “orange” communities, denoting that they have high Covid-19 case numbers, classes will require at least 70% of its students to have received at least one dose of the vaccine to remain in person. Any less, and classes will be taught online, once again.
The ruling will go into effect immediately for all students ages 13 and above though younger children are expected to follow suit in just three weeks’ time, according to CNN. Citizens entering stores and other indoor workplaces will be required to prove that they are vaccinated.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also limited the number of government officials who could work on site by half and urged companies in the private sector to consider rolling back previously set return-to-office orders.
In the United States, where many people are still trying to receive the booster shot, daily Covid-19 cases are rising to levels reported last December. On Tuesday, there were over 188,000 cases reported nationwide.