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Israelis who are over the age of 60 and fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be offered booster shots, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Thursday.
The announcement comes amid increasing infections and indications that the vaccine's efficacy fades over time, the Associated Press reported.
The booster will be available to people older than 60 who were vaccinated more than five months ago.
"I'm announcing this evening the beginning of the campaign to receive the booster vaccine, the third vaccine," Bennett said in a nationally televised address. "Reality proves the vaccines are safe. Reality also proves the vaccines protect against severe morbidity and death. And like the flu vaccine, that needs to be renewed from time to time, it is the same in this case."
Israel is the first country to launch a national program offering a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the AP reported.
There's no proof that a third dose is beneficial, and neither the United States nor the European Union have approved booster shots, the AP reported.
Bennett said a team of expert advisers voted 56-1 in favor of the booster program, and that the recommendation was made after "considerable research and analysis" that would be shared with other nations, the AP reported.
Preliminary studies in Israel have indicated the vaccine's protection against serious illness dropped among those vaccinated in January, the AP reported.
"The findings show that there is a decline in the body's immunity over time, and the purpose of the booster is to re-strengthen it, thus significantly reducing the chances of infection and serious illness," Bennett said.
Israel has used the Pfizer vaccine on its population. Over 57% of the country's 9.3 million citizens have received two doses of the vaccine, and over 80% of the population over 40 is fully vaccinated, the AP reported.
Pfizer said Wednesday that the effectiveness of its vaccine drops slightly six months after the second dose. Pfizer has said they plan to seek authorization for boosters in August.
SOURCE: Associated Press
Robert Preidt and Robin Foster
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