Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced Thursday evening the country would offer a coronavirus booster shot to vaccinated people aged 60 and over and urged Israeli seniors to get vaccinated in order to "beat the virus."
"Our goal is to keep the State of Israel open," Bennett told a televised press conference. "But we must understand that there is a race between the vaccine campaign and the pandemic. We must make sure the vaccinations rate beats the pandemic's spread. We all have the shared obligation to protect one another. Go get vaccinated!"
According to the premier, the booster shot will be given to Israelis over the age of 60, provided that at least five months have passed since they received the second dose.
"Within a few days of receiving the third dose, [the vaccine] comes into effect and provides protection. I urge seniors who have been vaccinated with the second dose — go get vaccinated with the third dose. It will protect you from serious illness and death."
Israel becomes the first country in the world to offer its citizens a third dose of Pfizer/Biontech two-dose vaccine, although the move has yet to be cleared by any regulatory body in Israel or abroad, and in the absence of reliable and comprehensive data.
Bennett added that Israel will not go into another lockdown, fourth in number, as the policy had cost the country's economy NIS 200 billion, according to him.
President Isaac Herzog, who turns 61 in September, will be the first Israeli to receive the booster shot as part of the campaign Friday morning.
Bennett also said he will accompany his 78-year-old mother Myrna when she gets her jab.
Israel's elderly population was first to get vaccinated as part of the country's trailblazing vaccine rollout, with many seniors getting inoculated in December, January and February as they were regarded as the most vulnerable sector of the population.
With the emergence of the Delta variant in Israel, the country's vaccine protection rampart seems to all but have broken as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations soared among the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.
The Health Ministry reported last week that the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine's efficacy in preventing infection has seen a staggering drop from over 90% to around 40%. However, the shot's protection from severe illness and death still remains relatively high.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry reported Thursday evening that 1,448 Israelis have tested for coronavirus since midnight.
Out of 15,521 active coronavirus patients, 151 were hospitalized in serious condition, with 26 connected to ventilators.
An unvaccinated 38-year-old man died due to complications of COVID-19 at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva on Thursday.
The hospital relayed that the patient, who did not suffer from any underlying health conditions, was hospitalized with severe respiratory symptoms and his situation quickly deteriorated until he passed away shortly after.
The national death toll since the start of the pandemic stood at 6,466.