Israel will offer FOURTH dose of coronavirus vaccine to people over the age of 60 to shore up protection against Omicron
- Israel will become the first nation to administer fourth doses of Covid vaccines, approving the shots for those over the age of 60 on Tuesday
- Health care workers will be eligible for the additional shots as well, starting immediately
- Israel has recorded 341 cases of the variant as of Tuesday afternoon, and total Covid cases have increased 57% over the past two weeks
- U.S. officials like Dr Anthony Fauci and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla have said that a fourth dose may be eventually needed for Americans as well
Israel has taken a drastic step to prevent the spread of the Omicron Covid variant, with health officials announcing Tuesday night that people over the age of 60 will now be eligible for fourth shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The move makes Israel the first country to introduce a fourth shot to its population, a move that some U.S. health officials have flirted with in recent weeks.
Medical personnel will also be eligible for the additional shot.
Officials from the Middle Eastern nation cite the spreading of the Omicron variant as reason for the move, as the highly infectious, highly mutated, strain has shown an ability to evade protections offered by the vaccines.
The country has recorded 341 confirmed cases of the new strain, only trailing 12 other nations as of Tuesday afternoon. More than 100,000 cases of Omicron have been confirmed worldwide.
Israeli officials have approved fourth doses of the Pfizer Covid vaccine for healthcare workers and residents aged 60 or older. The move comes as a response to the vaccine-evasive Omicron variant. Pictured: An elderly man in Jerusalem, Israel, receives a shot of a COVID-19 vaccine
‘Another vaccine for people over the age of 60 and for medical staff of all ages,’ Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said in a tweet.
‘This is our top priority for Omicron: Protecting the adults who are most vulnerable and keeping the medical staff safe.
‘No need to wait. Go get vaccinated.’
The rollout of the fourth shots will start immediately.
While Covid cases in Israel remain relatively low, the country has suffered a recent uptick. It is averaging 833 cases per day, a 57 percent increase over the past two weeks.
Residents of the nation are also banned from traveling to the U.S. or the UK, among many other European, Asian and African countries that are currently suffering from the variant.
Israel was lauded early in its vaccine rollout for quickly racing ahead of the rest of the world.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 71 percent of the population has received one shot of a vaccine, and 65 percent are fully vaccinated. Officials numbers also report that 46 percent of Israelis are boosted.
Early data from Pfizer – which produces the vaccine primarily used in Israel – shows that only receiving the first two doses of the jab leaves people vulnerable to the Omicron variant.
The new strain, discovered by South African officials last month, is the most highly mutated version of the virus yet discovered. It has more than 50 mutations, including 37 on its spike protein.
The many mutations that Omicron has allows it to evade both vaccine produced antibodies, and antibodies generated naturally be a previous infection.
Pfizer and BioNTech – which partnered with the New York City-based company in the research and development of the shots – revealed earlier this month that its booster dose would re-establish some protections a person has against Omicron infection.
Some fear that protection would wane over time, just like it did from the first two doses.
With Israel making booster shots available as early as July, the earliest recipients of the additional shots are already five months removed from receiving the shots, and immunity has likely waned.
In the U.S., booster shots are still fairly new, and a majority of fully vaccinated Americans still have not had a chance to get them.
The shots were not approved for a majority of the fully vaccinated population until November. According to official data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 60 million Americans – or 18 percent of the U.S. population – has received their booster.
Some health officials are already thinking about the potential for a fourth dose.
Earlier this month, Fauci, along with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, said the idea of a fourth shot for Americans was being explored.
The U.S. has often followed behind Israel, and used data from the nation to make decisions for Americans. Israel opening the door for fourth shots means they may come to the U.S. in the coming months as well.