Israel lowered the age of eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots to people aged 30 and older on Tuesday, a move aimed at tamping down the fast-spreading Delta variant.
The Health Ministry, which first offered the third shot to people with compromised immune systems in June, will expand the booster eligibility down from 40 for those who received their second dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine at least five months prior.
In addition to people over 30, those eligible for the booster include health care workers, pregnant women, teachers, caregivers for the elderly and prisoners. Israel, with a population of 9.3 million, has so far administered the third shot to more than 1.5 million people.
The push for third jabs comes as Israel battles one of the world’s highest per capita COVID-19 rates. Despite being a world leader in vaccines, Israel is struggling to contain a spike in infections caused by the Delta variant and waning immunity among its vaccinated population.
One of Israel’s leading health care providers said the third shot is 86% effective at preventing coronavirus infection in people aged 60+. In addition, the Israeli Health Ministry said its findings showed that among adults over 60, the booster offered four times the protection from infection after 10 days, compared to those vaccinated with just two doses, Reuters reported.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization called for a two-month global moratorium on boosters as the vaccination rates in poorer countries continue to lag. 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. Bennett, 49, received his third vaccine jab last week.
“If you go get vaccinated with a third shot we will be able to avoid a fourth lockdown,” Bennett said before receiving the booster in a live social media broadcast.
Israel reported more than 9,800 COVID-19 cases on Monday, nearly an all-time daily high. The new cases raised the country’s total number of infections to more than 1 million since the start of the pandemic.