Israel extends COVID vaccine booster shots

Israel is extending its coronavirus vaccine campaign to include booster shots for people over the age of 40 and is recommending that teachers, healthcare workers, people who care for the elderly, and pregnant women of all ages do the same.

The booster is for a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the health minister said on Thursday (August 19), hoping it will fend off the Delta variant.

The announcement comes a day after the United States announced plans to offer booster doses to all Americans, citing data showing diminishing protection.

Israel began administering third doses to people over 60 in July, later dropping the minimum age of eligibility to 50.

New cases have surged since the emergence of the Delta variant, first identified in India.

And Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wants to avoid an economically painful national lockdown by ramping up third doses.

But experts and officials worry that cases will continue to mount. Around 1 million eligible Israelis have not taken even one dose of the vaccine.

Severe cases have also continued to climb, although with far lower rates among fully vaccinated 40-50-year-olds, who began receiving their first shots in January.

Pfizer has said its vaccine's efficacy drops over time and that a third dose showed significantly higher neutralizing antibodies.

But there is no consensus among scientists and agencies that a third dose is necessary.

The World Health Organization is arguing that the most vulnerable people worldwide should be fully vaccinated before high-income countries deploy boosters.

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