Israel approves 4th vaccine dose for most vulnerable
TEL AVIV (AP) — Israel has approved a fourth vaccine dose for people most vulnerable to COVID-19, an official said Thursday, becoming one of the first countries to do so as it braces for a wave of infections fueled by the omicron variant.
Nachman Ash, the director general of the Health Ministry, announced the decision at a press conference, saying the doses would initially be given to those with weakened immune systems.
“We will continue to track the data on a daily basis and we will see if we need to broaden this recommendation to more of the population," he said.
The Sheba Medical Center later said it would begin administering the fourth dose to heart transplant patients early on Friday. Israel launched trials of the fourth dose at the center earlier this week, administering it to some 150 medical personnel who had gotten a booster in August.
Israel was among the first countries to roll out Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine a year ago and began rolling out boosters last summer. But it still saw a wave of infections blamed on the delta variant, and officials have warned of another driven by the fast-spreading omicron.
Around two-thirds of Israel's population of nearly 9.5 million have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and some 4.2 million Israelis have received all three doses, according to the latest Health Ministry figures.
“Israel will lead the way in administering a fourth vaccine (dose) to the Israeli people," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement. "Israel’s strategy for overcoming omicron is clear: The greater the wave, the greater the protection we will need to overcome it.”
Earlier Thursday, Israel received its first shipment of pills that treat the worst effects of the virus.
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