Israel extends COVID-19 vaccine boosters to people over 40, teachers

Israel extends COVID-19 vaccine boosters to people over 40, teachers

Israelis over 40 and teachers are now eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the health minister said on Thursday, hoping an expansion of the booster campaign will fend off the coronavirus Delta variant.

Other countries, including Canada, France and Germany, have also planned booster campaigns.

Israel began administering third doses to people over 60 in July, later dropping the minimum age of eligibility to 50 and offering boosters to health workers and others. The Health Ministry cited waning immunity as well as the Delta variant's high infectiousness.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said on Twitter that "now even people aged 40 and over, and teaching staff, can get a third vaccine dose." Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, 49, said he intends to get the third dose as soon as Friday morning.

The Health Ministry's expert advisory panel said a third dose would only be administered to people whose second shot was at least five months ago. It also recommended administering a third dose to pregnant women.

New cases in Israel have surged since the emergence of the Delta variant, first identified in India. Bennett has sought to avoid an economically painful national lockdown by ramping up third doses. But experts and officials worry that cases will continue to mount given that around 1 million eligible Israelis have not taken even one dose of the vaccine.

Severe cases have also continued to climb - mostly among the unvaccinated and the elderly - with far lower rates among fully vaccinated 40-50-year-olds, who began receiving their first shots in January, Reuters reported.

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