Israel on Monday became the first country in the world to offer a third coronavirus vaccine dose, with a new policy directive from the Health Ministry going into effect.
The Health Ministry informed healthcare providers that they may begin to administer the third dose to immunocompromised adults after Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Sunday that Israel would move ahead with the booster shots even before U.S. and European regulators approved Pfizer's request on the issue.
The ministry recommended administering the third dose eight weeks after the second - and no less than four weeks after it.
Sheba Medical Center, Israel's largest hospital, began calling in immunocompromised people Monday for a third dose of the vaccine.
The Health Ministry's panel of epidemiological experts backed the move on Sunday and also recommended vaccinating children under the age of 12 in exceptional circumstances such as serious underlying illness or sharing a household with someone who is immunocompromised.
The decision also coincides with Pfizer's clinical trials on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine among children aged six months to 12 years.
According to the pharmaceutical giant, it expects its coronavirus vaccine to be approved for children under 12 by early 2022.
Israel rolled out its massive inoculation campaign in December and has seen more than 5.7 million people receive the first jab and over 5.1 million also receive the second. The campaign was extended to include children aged 12-15 last month, after the FDA approved the vaccines for this use.
Israel had briefly paused its vaccination drive on Saturday night before resuming it Monday morning, after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said a new shipment of Pfizer vaccines would be arriving in Israel at the start of next month.
Last week, Israel signed a vaccine exchange with South Korea, dispatching 700,000 doses close to their expiry date in anticipation of a reciprocal move by Seoul later in the year. The same vaccines were rejected by the Palestinian Authority due to their looming expiration.
i24NEWS contributed to this report