Jerusalem, Dec 22 (EFE).- Israel is set to become the world’s first country to offer a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine as a tool to tackle the Omicron variant, despite skepticism from some scientists.
“This is wonderful news that will assist us in getting through the Omicron wave that is engulfing the world,” Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett said after last night’s announcement.
“We are continuing to pioneer with the fourth dose,” the premier said after Israel became the first country in the world to administer a Pfizer booster shot.
The panel of experts advising the government on the pandemic recommended administering a second booster to those over 60 years and to healthcare workers.
The recommendation, which is pending final approval from the health ministry, is to administer the fourth dose at least four months after the third.
They also advised cutting the interval between the second and third doses from five to three months to boost the protection levels as the country reported the highest level of daily infections since mid-October on Tuesday.
“It is a very difficult decision,” Nadav Davidovitch, director of the School of Public Health at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and a member of the advisory committee that recommended the fourth dose, told Efe.
Although he pointed out that signs of a decrease in immunity provided by the third dose have already been detected, Davidovitch acknowledged that the vaccine’s effectiveness against the new strain – which he anticipates will generate a “huge wave of infections” – is not yet fully known.
Other experts argue that rolling out a fourth dose is premature due to the low number of severe cases and deaths reported so far in the world as a result of the spread of Omicron.
“I think this is an attempt by the government to avoid a new general lockdown,” said Cyrille Cohen, director of the immunotherapy laboratory at the Bar Ilan University.
Despite being on the advisory panel, he was not part of the team that recommended the fourth dose, he added.
“The problem is that we still do not know if it is effective against Omicron, so I am a bit surprised,” he said.
Thus far, some 63 percent of Israel’s population has been administered at least two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, while 45 percent have received three jabs. EFE