Israel surpassed 600 serious patients on Thursday, as the committee advising the Health Ministry on COVID vaccine-related issues prepared to gather to discuss expanding the eligibility of the booster – currently offered to individuals over 50.
Over 1.2 million Israelis have already received the third shot, including 55% of individuals ages 60-69, 72% of those ages 70-79, 68% of those ages 80-89 and 62% of people over 90. Among the cohort 50-59, for whom the vaccination campaign only started last Friday, some 26% of the people have already received a booster.
Israel was the first country in the world to start vaccinating entire sectors of its population for the third time on July 30, after registering a decrease in the inoculation efficacy among the elderly many of whom were fully vaccinated by the end of January.
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While authorities and experts in several other countries have expressed skepticism about the need for a booster, some have decided to follow through with it in the upcoming weeks.
On Wednesday, US health authorities announced that starting from September 20 a third shot will be available to all Americans age 12 and up eight months after they received their second dose.
“Among the elderly, we see a significant difference between those who received the third dose and those who did not,” said Dr. Tal Brosh, head of Infectious Disease Unit at the Samson Assuta Ashdod Hospital and a member of the advisory committee. “Nothing but the vaccine specifically protects this group.”
Speaking to Radio 103 FM, part of The Jerusalem Post Group, Brosh noted that the experts will discuss whether to expand the eligibility to people of all ages or go down more gradually, saying that they want to be more careful with younger people.
The first data released by Maccabi Health Services Wednesday indicates that the booster has so far proven to be 86% effective in preventing infections among the elderly, a very high rate, considering that the efficacy of the previous two doses had dropped to as low as 16% for them.
New data released Thursday by the Health Ministry on side effects of the vaccine confirmed that the booster appears to elicit fewer side effects than the first two shots.