Israel will reportedly begin offering a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people ages 60 and older, weeks after it opened up the availability of a third jab to at-risk populations. The move, reported via Israeli TV and radio but not yet published on the Ministry of Health website, comes amid a rapid rise in the delta variant.
Pfizer this week published data suggesting that a third dose of its vaccine would strongly boost protection against the delta variant. A preprint also suggested that efficacy dropped to about 84% about six months after the second dose.
Boosters remain a hotbed for debate in countries around the world, especially as health agencies investigate so-called breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals and reinstate mask mandates in a bid to stop the spread.
Pfizer previously indicated that it would seek emergency use authorization from the FDA for a booster dose in August, a move which at first drew a sharp response from the agency and the CDC. Since then, Dr. Anthony Fauci has said a third shot might be necessary at least for some populations.
Israel had been considered a world leader in vaccination, with over 56% of its population fully inoculated, and had lifted almost all virus-related restrictions a few weeks ago. However, due to a rise in cases the government has reinstated several precautionary measures such as masking while indoors.
“Vaccine refusers are endangering the health, surroundings and freedom of all Israeli citizens,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, said last week. “They are endangering our freedom to work, the freedom of our children to learn, the freedom to celebrate festivities with the family.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.