Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday crowed that his government had provided yet another “layer” of protection against COVID-19 by approving a fourth vaccine shot for citizens over the age of 60 and in high-risk groups.
At a press conference following the government’s decision, Bennett stated:
“This evening, I inform you that Heath Ministry Director General Prof. Nachman Ash updated me and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz a short while ago of his decision to allow a fourth dose of the vaccine to be given to all adults over 60 and medical crews who received the previous dose at least four months ago. Professor Ash’s decision was made in accordance with professional considerations after he had consulted with various experts.
“The significance here is considerable. In effect, we have a new layer of protection. Here it must be said that our country, one of the first in the world with the boosters, safeguarded Israeli citizens very well.”
There appears to be at least one expert that Bennett didn’t consult, namely Prof. Ariel Munitz of Tel Aviv University’s department of microbiology and clinical immunology.
Prof. Munitz is an accomplished immunologist who appears regularly in the Israeli media.
In a long, medical jargon-filled Twitter thread posted late last month, Munitz called into question the scientific validity of boosting Israelis with a vaccine that was made for a strain of COVID-19 that we are no longer facing.
“I do not know on what basis the decision was made to go and vaccinate with a fourth vaccine, but as an immunologist I certainly oppose this in light of the data available today,” wrote the professor.
He explained that by repeatedly exposing our immune system to the same strain of COVID-19 we are lessening the likelihood of being able to fight off future variants and strains. We are training our bodies to recognize and fight against just one strain, and if future strains differ from it too much, they will successfully overcome our natural defenses.
The current Pfizer vaccine was produced based on the “original” variant causing infections in early 2020.
Repeated COVID-19 booster shots using the same vaccine are in effect hindering the flexibility of our immune systems. And, as Prof. Munitz stressed, “Anyone who has studied immunology knows that one of the most powerful features of the immune system is its flexibility.”
In today’s charged political atmosphere, Prof. Munitz was careful to indicate that he is by no means an “anti-vaxxer,” just a concerned citizen with the knowledge to know what he’s talking about.
“I also have older parents who I would like to protect, but I would not recommend them to get vaccinated with the fourth vaccine in its current form,” he tweeted.
What Prof. Munitz would like to see, absent an updated vaccine targeting current COVID-19 strains, is a “controlled trial performed by relevant experts on the subject.”
Many Israelis fear that while there are indeed top doctors in and consulting the so-called “Corona cabinet,” decisions such as rushing a fourth vaccine shot are ultimately being made by politicians for political reasons.