Israelis over 40 will now be eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the health minister said on Thursday, hoping an expansion of its booster campaign will fend off the coronavirus Delta variant.
The expansion of booster eligibility, following a health ministry recommendation reported by Israeli media, comes a day after the US announced plans to offer booster doses to all Americans, citing data showing diminishing protection.
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.
More than a million of Israel’s 9.3 million population has since received a third shot, which an Israeli healthcare provider said on Wednesday was 86 percent effective in preventing infection.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said on Twitter that “now even people aged 40 and over, and teaching staff, can get a third vaccine dose ... The vaccine is safe and also effective.”
New cases in Israel have surged since the emergence of the Delta variant, first identified in India. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has sought to avoid an economically-painful national lockdown by ramping up third doses.