From Friday morning Israelis over the age of 50 could schedule a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The government approved expanding the booster shot campaign following a lengthy cabinet meeting on the subject, but Health Ministry’s Director-General Nachman Ash must still officially sign off on the recommendation. He is expected to do so.
Israel was the first country to approve the administering of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, first to citizens over the age of 60, and now over the age of 50. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had reportedly wanted to drop the age of eligibility to 40, but other members of his cabinet insisted on a more gradual approach.
“This was the right decision for the health of Israeli citizens and an important step in the fight against the Delta variant,” said Bennett. “Get out and get inoculated. This is about saving lives. It’s in our hands.”
Israel’s new government is under enormous pressure to curb a mounting fourth wave of coronavirus infections fueled by the rapid spread of the Delta variant. For a number of days now, Israel has registered over 6,000 new daily infections, with a overall positive test result of nearly 5%.
Far more concerning has been the rise in the number of Israelis hospitalized in serious condition with COVID-19. That number now stands at 462, with 75 people on ventilators.
Just 10 days ago, the number of hospitalized Israelis was 221, and at the start of June, a mere 49 were hospitalized with COVID-19.
But the need to bring these numbers back down notwithstanding, Israel was rapped earlier this week by the World Health Organization (WHO) for its mass distribution of extra vaccine doses when the science doesn’t yet support taking such measures.
Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s frontman on the coronavirus pandemic, didn’t mention Israel by name, but told a live social media event that the world’s wealthier nations should be “collectively disgusted with ourselves” for over-vaccinating when poorer countries are hardly able to inoculate a fraction of their populations.
Mariangela Simao, the WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines, added that “there’s no scientific evidence yet that we need to have a third dose.”
Israel is presently just one of three countries that have approved and began administering COVID booster shots, the other two being Russia and Hungary.