A senior health official said Thursday that Israelis may need another COVID vaccine dose to protect them from possible new coronavirus strains.
Health Ministry Director General Prof. Nachman Ash told Ynet it's still to soon to say that the pandemic is behind us. "The [Omicron] wave is behind us, but the confirmed cases are still not low. I really hope that this is the last wave. I don't know that there won't be another variant that will bring on another wave. We're preparing for such an option, but I hope it doesn't happen."
Prof. Ash added, however, that he is encouraged by the significant decline in virus patients who require hospitalization. "We're practically, almost, living normally," he said.
"One thing that's staying with us is the vaccine. We still need to continue making sure the population gets vaccinated and I assume we'll need to supervise this in a more intense way before next winter."
Prof. Ash claims crowded events, including upcoming Purim celebrations, don't invoke fears in him of a potential mass outbreak. "I'm not worried at all, I don't expect there to be an influx of cases because of Purim. But personally, everyone needs to avoid getting infected... Elderly people with compromised immune system need to protect themselves much more, and I would advise them to avoid these parties."
The WHO came out with a statement this week, claiming that vaccine boosters are indeed effective, however, Prof. Ash said the fourth jab is not recommended for everyone.
"I'm calling on all those who are immunocompromised, chronically ill, etc. to get the fourth dose. But at this point, with numbers going down, I don't think everyone needs to get the fourth dose. Nonetheless, at a certain point we'll need to receive another vaccine that will strengthen our immune system against possibilities of another wave.
"We're going through a process of learning as we go along, this month we have a full day dedicated to examining what happened [in the last wave] and extracting lessons for the next wave, there are certainly things we need to learn from," he said.
Professor Yehuda Adler, cardiologist and advisor to local authorities on COVID issues, reiterated Prof. Ash's sentiments that it's too early to say the pandemic is behind us.
He said that despite the declining number of new cases, each Israeli now knows at least one person who has had the virus, and the BA.2, which is Omicron's offshoot, variant is becoming more prevalent - making up 30% of current active cases.
"There will be many unclear things in the management of the next wave," Adler said.