Israel can give the fourth dose of Covid vaccination, despite experts’ doubts

Although there is evidence that Omicron, which was only discovered last month, usually causes milder illnesses than previous variants, Israeli officials said that by the time they have clearer information, it may be too late to see the am to protect the most vulnerable.

“We can sit in our academic chairs and wait for research results from abroad,” said Dr. Tal Brosh, another member of the advisory board, “but that’s a kind of privilege we don’t have.”

Israel began giving the Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose vaccine last December and had vaccinated a significant portion of its population before many affluent countries had even started. In the spring it became the first country in the world to vaccinate a large part of its population. Mr. Bennett, the Prime Minister, boasted of his early decision in late July to administer the third shot and credited him with successfully containing the Delta Wave while keeping schools and businesses open.

The advent of Omicron threatens to reverse those gains and plunge the country back into some kind of lockdown. But Israel quickly tightened border controls and banned most foreigners from visiting, and it is creating an ever-growing Red List of high-infection-rate countries that Israelis are not allowed to travel to without special permission, including the United States and Canada.

Bennett enthusiastically welcomed the panel’s recommendation for a fourth injection this week, saying, “The citizens of Israel were the first in the world to receive a third dose and we continue to lead the way with the fourth.”

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Thursday that he expected the Germans to get another refresher next year, depending on how long it takes to protect the third shot.

But some medical professionals have suggested putting on the brakes.

Prof. Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist and chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians, said Israel has not seen a sharp surge in infections – daily infections are around 1,200 per day, up from 11,000 at the peak of the Delta wave in the United States August – and there was no evidence that a fourth syringe was required to prevent serious illness from Omicron.

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