Israel Edging Toward Covid Booster

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at Migdal Nofim retirement home in Yerushalayim, Tuesday. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday that the government is seriously considering the rollout of a third shot against the coronavirus.

“We’re on top of it, believe me. For at least a month [we’ve been working on] things that need to come to fruition. We’re very close. The less we talk about it, the greater chance it’ll happen. I’m on it,” he said during a visit on Tuesday afternoon at the Migdal Nofim nursing home in Yerushalayim.

The comment came amid data released by the Health Ministry last week suggesting that protection against covid provided by the Pfizer vaccines earlier in the year is fading. People vaccinated in January were found to have just 16% protection against infection now, while in those vaccinated in April, the effectiveness was at 75%.

A study by the Hebrew University published Tuesday indicates the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing serious illness has dropped to 80 percent, The Times of Israel reported.

The researchers warned that the number of serious cases — currently at 138 — could rise to 200-400 by mid-August if effective measures are not immediately taken.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry on Tuesday expanded vaccination effort to include children aged 5 to 11 who are at immediate risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness, Ynet reported.

A ministry advisory told hospitals and healthcare providers that they can offer the vaccine to children at such a young age, including those suffering from morbid obesity, neurodevelopmental disorders, severe immunosuppression, acute chronic lung diseases, heart failure and pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Israel thus becomes the first country in the world to approve the vaccine for emergency use in children under 12 years of age.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are still testing the safety of such inoculations, at the behest of U.S. regulators.