On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that citizens over 60 years old and healthcare professionals will be able to receive a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccine.
Developed nations around the globe are stepping up vaccination campaigns in the face of the Omicron coronavirus variant but Israel – who has consistently been the world leader when it comes to vaccination rollout – is going a step further. After consultation with health experts, the government has decided to take further precautions and administer fourth doses, Belga News Agency reports.
“Israeli citizens were the first in the world to receive a third vaccine dose and we will now continue to set a global example with the fourth dose,” Bennett said whilst encouraging those eligible to get vaccinated.
Health experts in the country gave the green light to push ahead with the fourth dose after the first death caused by the Omicron variant was recorded in the country. Bennett welcomed the decision as “excellent news that will allow us to avoid the Omicron wave that is sweeping across the world.”
Those with weakened immune systems can also receive the fourth dose alongside those aged 60 or older. Recipients must wait at least four months after their third injection before getting a fourth dose, Israel’s health minister confirmed.
In addition to rolling out the fourth doses, further restrictions have been introduced in Israel to combat rising coronavirus infections. Approximately 200 Israelis have been diagnosed with the Omicron variant. Only 60% of the 9.4 million citizens are considered as fully vaccinated.
For 9% of them, the vaccination has “expired”. One-third of the population has not been vaccinated at all.
Correction: A formal decision by the Israeli government to launch a fourth vaccine dose has not been taken yet, according to Israeli media on Thursday (23 December). An expert advisory panel recommended on Tuesday a fourth dose to elderly people, immune compromised people and medical staff but the decision was less based on evidence about efficacy and risks and more motivated by concerns about the spread of Omicron.