In what's a likely sign of things to come elsewhere, Israel is now pushing a third jab, or follow-up booster for those who've already received their two vaccine rounds, for the elderly people over the age of 60.
Israel's prominent Haaretz newspaper revealed Thursday the country will be the first in the world to start doing so after government approval, writing that Israel "will start offering a third COVID vaccine shot to people over 60 starting on Sunday, after the Health Ministry approved the move on Thursday."
"The booster shots will be given to those over 60 who received their second dose at least five months ago. Israel is the first country to announce that it will begin giving booster shots," the report says.
Israeli President Naftali Bennet unveiled the plan to the nation in a televised address:
"I’m announcing this evening the beginning of the campaign to receive the booster vaccine, the third vaccine," Bennett said.
"Reality proves the vaccines are safe. Reality also proves the vaccines protects from 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."
Recent reports have indicated internal health ministry disagreement on whether the third jab program should start for vaccinated people 60 years old, 65 or 70. The rationale is that the elderly are considered to have weaker immune systems compared to the broader population.
Some 60% of Israel's total population has been vaccinated. The third round of a Pfizer-BioNTech shot is also in response to fears that the vaccine's effectiveness is waning the face of the delta variant's spread. Within the eligible age group, those that received their second dose at least five months ago have access to the booster.
Some are already calling for a "different vaccine" altogether to fight delta and other variants...
As #COVID-19 cases skyrocket in #Israel, should a third Pfizer vaccine be given?— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 29, 2021
'If the efficiency of the vaccine has gone down because of the delta variant ... maybe we need a different vaccine,' says Prof. Zvika Granot, immunologist @HebrewU. pic.twitter.com/SkNY1h0WiB
Axios notes that:
Pfizer on Wednesday said it has data that shows that a third shot "strongly" increases antibody levels against the Delta variant.
...Israel has reported a total of 867,240 confirmed cases and 6,462 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Recently Israel's health ministry boasted that the two-dose vaccine is 91% effective against severe illness and 88% effective against hospitalization, but again it appears that officials are concerned the effectiveness is being reduced especially in the elderly population. Likely it's now only a matter of time before this extends to the broader, younger demographic as well.
From the start, many among the 'vaccine hesitant' or skeptical argued that the groundwork is being laid to eventually administer the COVID-19 jab with the regularity of an annual flu shot. This prediction appears to slowly be coming to fruition, particularly given Bennet's word choice in announcing approval of the third jab... "like the flu vaccine that needs to be renewed from time to time," he said.