Israel tests second booster shot on health workers

Israel on Monday administered a second round of COVID-19 booster shots to a test group of health workers in what it said was the first major study into whether the additional boosters will help fight the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Professor Jacob Lavee of Sheba Medical Center outside of Tel Aviv said he was first to get the jab – which marks his fourth shot total.

“To paraphrase an old saying, 'It's a small jab into the shoulder, probably a giant step for mankind.’”

A Health Ministry expert panel last week recommended that Israel become the first country to offer a fourth vaccine dose - or second booster shot - to those over age 60, those suffering from compromised immune systems and to medical workers.

The proposal was welcomed by the Israeli government, in a country where turn-out for vaccines appears to be plateauing.

Professor Gili Regev-Yochay is the study’s director.

"We will have initial data within a few days about the safety, and I think then we will feel more safe to say - okay, everybody who has immunosuppression can go and get it. Or, people... if we see that we have outbreaks with severe disease in elderly homes, maybe we should recommend them - but we will have a little bit basis on how much immunogenicity this raises, this fourth vaccine.”

Israel was the fastest country to roll out initial vaccinations a year ago, and became one of the first to launch a booster program after observing that immunity waned over time.

On Monday, the Health Ministry said it was shortening the time between offering the second and third doses of COVID-19 vaccines to three months from five in order to beat back rising infections.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been in self-isolation at home since Sunday after his 14-year-old daughter tested positive with what his office says is probably the Omicron variant. He subsequently tested negative, and is working from home.

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