Israel expanded eligibility for a coronavirus booster shot on Friday, lowering the minimum age requirement to 50 from 60 in order to help curb the rapidly spreading Delta variant.
Israel, which offered the third shot to people with compromised immune systems in June, is now the world’s first country to authorize Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for those over 50. Others eligible for the booster include health care workers, prisoners and wardens. The Times of Israel reports that as of Friday morning, 775,703 people in Israel have received a third dose.
“I really hope that as many people as possible my age, 50 and older, will be vaccinated with the third dose,” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Friday.
“Now is a critical time. This is the most effective tool we have to stop the Delta variant. We are in a very big outbreak and this is a step that everybody can take,” said Horowitz, who received his booster at Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization called for a global moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September as poorer countries still struggle to obtain doses. Asked about the WHO guidance, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel was doing the world a "great service" by administering boosters, the research from which would be shared with other countries.
Despite having the world’s most effective coronavirus vaccination campaign, Israel is dealing with an uptick in infections fueled by the more transmissible Delta variant. Even with 80% of adults fully vaccinated, health officials have reinstated an indoor mask mandate and vaccination or negative test requirements as public gatherings.
With the Jewish holidays approaching, the Israeli government is hoping to avoid having to implement a fourth nationwide lockdown in September. Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said the number of critically ill patients would determine whether another lockdown is needed.