From Sunday fully vaccinated Israelis aged 60 and over can receive a COVID booster shot, provided that at least five months have passed since they received the second dose.
In a bid to fend off the spread of the coronavirus Delta variant and stem the spike in COVID cases around the country, Israel has become the first country in the world to offer its citizens a third dose of Pfizer/Biotech two-dose vaccine.
According to the Health Ministry, 2,080 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed on Saturday after 66,499 tests conducted, indicating a 3.17% positivity rate.
There are currently 212 people hospitalized in serious condition with 37 on ventilators. After three people died of complications of the virus on Saturday, the fatality rate since the start of the pandemic stands on 6,474.
President Isaac Herzog, who will turn 61 in September, received the third jab Friday morning, making him the first Israeli to receive the booster shot as part of the campaign.
Health Ministry Director General Prof. Nachman Ash, who also received the booster, urged the over 60 population to receive the jab, saying that “it is an important step taken by Israel.”
“[The move] is meant to protect the older population from infection and severe illness. I call on all those who are part of this age group to go and get the booster shot,” said Ash, who added that some choose to undergo a serological test to find out the level of antibodies in their body before deciding whether to get the third jab.
“I would like to emphasize that this is not necessary,” said Ash. “There is no medical justification in making the decision of whether to get vaccinated based on the result of a serological test. I repeat: First, second or third jab - go get vaccinated.”
Aside from Herzog and Ash, there are some who have already decided to get the booster as soon as possible.
"When we talked a week and two weeks ago about the option of a third vaccine, there was still no consensus among all the doctors and professors,” says 70-year-old Ezra, a grandfather of four, who plans to get the booster together his wife Vered.
“Once the majority of the expert committee [which advises the Health Ministry] decided that the vaccine could be given, it was clear to us that we would receive the third jab."
Moti, 73, a grandfather of 10, also planned to receive the booster on Sunday.
"I had no hesitation at all. I am not one of those who are afraid of the vaccine,” says Moti.
"The vaccine protects people from death, and my goal is to continue living. I have been married to my wife for 52 years and I want to keep living with her for another 52 years.”
Meanwhile, Magen David Adom was to begin an extensive vaccination campaign Sunday, in all nursing homes in Israel, for both residents and staffers.
"As Israel's national rescue organization that was the first at the forefront of the fight against COVID - we are proud to take on the national mission assigned to us by the Health Ministry and also carry out a campaign to give the third jab to the elderly population in nursing homes,” said MDA Director Eli Bean.
The Maccabi healthcare fund said that some 25,000 of its members have already made an appointment to receive the third jab.
“Nearly 8% of the target audience suitable for a third job has already made an appointment. Over the weekend, we have already vaccinated more than 3,000 Maccabi members with a third dose,” the HMO said in a statement.