After two weeks of uncertainty, Israel approved on Sunday a fourth vaccine dose to people over 60 and medical staff.
The decision was taken in phases after the health ministry finally recommended the government to start a new vaccination campaign in view of the increasing number of daily Omicron cases. On Sunday, the number reached 5,000 and is predicted to increase to tens of thousands in two weeks. In the best scenario the infection rate will subdue after a peak of 50,000 daily cases, the country’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned.
Israel was one of the first countries to start vaccinations more than a year ago and the first country to start a successful booster vaccination campaign last July against the Delta. It has been seen as a kind of a vaccination laboratory for other countries, especially because of its access to on-line data to follow up the vaccinations.
Judging by previous experience, the fourth vaccine dose will gradually be rolled out to younger age groups and other countries, that only recently started to roll out the third dose, will in a number of months also launch a second booster campaign.
In Belgium, 47% of the adult population (38% of the entire population has received their first booster dose). Getting a booster shot of the coronavirus vaccine is recommended for everyone, including those who have already been infected in the past, according to vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme.
Van Damme stresses that there is no time to wait for a modified vaccine: “Soon, all infections will be with Omicron. The booster vaccine has a good efficacy of 70% to 75% against symptomatic infection.” The effectiveness against serious illness is even higher.
But it might still be too early to assess the effectiveness of the third dose against the Omicron variant and whether it will wane after a number of months as the primary vaccination.
Despite the uncertainty about Omicron and WHOs latest assessment, an expert advisory panel in Israel recommended a fourth dose as a matter of precaution in case the dramatic increase in daily cases will also lead to an increase in serious cases that will overwhelm the capacity of the hospitals.
First, a decision was taken to protect the most vulnerable people at care and retirement homes with the fourth dose. Then the go-ahead was given for as second booster to immunocompromised people. And yesterday, the new booster campaign was expanded.
Motivating the decision, Prime-Minister Naftali Bennet said on Sunday evening that, “The wave is coming and there is no way to prevent it. The good news is that we have learned from the world that if you are vaccinated you are largely protected from serious illness. Those who are vaccinated will be able to go on with their lives.”
The government’s goal has been to avoid a new lockdown and enable the economy to function as must as possible while protecting the most vulnerable, he said. At the outbreak of Omicron in November, Israel imposed strict travel restrictions on incoming and outgoing travel, including a ban on its own citizens to travel to “red” countries with a high occurrence of Omicron.
That policy was aimed at saving time for the country to prepare itself for the inevitable spread of the new variant. As soon as Omicron started to spread in the community, the travel restrictions were gradually relaxed. The government has also given up on enforcing some of the previous restrictions against mass gatherings and calls on people to take more responsibility for their own actions.
The Brussels Times