Israel may not need to administer a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine in six months despite an announcement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Prof. Galia Rahav, the head of the Infectious Disease Unit and Laboratories at Israel's largest hospital, said Wednesday.
"There is no indication of such a need at this stage," said Rahav, who is based at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. "Fortunately, we are seeing no resurgence of disease. The vaccines we have all received appear to be effective."
Israel has fully vaccinated around 81% of its adult population. National COVID-19 infections are down sharply even after the economy largely reopened, and with just 288 people being treated in hospital for the disease, the country is closing its dedicated coronavirus wards.
Netanyahu said Tuesday night that Israel was preparing for a new vaccination drive in six months, which was also slated to include children.
"Brace your shoulders and the children too because according to our estimates the vaccines will be approved for children by then," Netanyahu said in televised remarks.
Despite not seeing the need for a further round of jabs at this stage, Rahav praised the decision to purchase more vaccines.
"Vaccines are like an insurance policy and that is a good thing to have," she said.
"We may decide to vaccinate kids or finally convince all those adults that have refused vaccines to get them. We may also decide to give a booster shot so we should stock up."
Rahav expressed concern over a planned mass gathering in northern Israel next week, as Haredi Jews head to Mount Meron for an annual pilgrimage during the Lag B'Omer holiday.
The government announced Tuesday there would be no limitations on the amount of people allowed to participate in the event, which last year was canceled.
"I am concerned about that event because people will crowd together without masks," Rahav said. "Fire does not protect from the virus."
Rahav said that she has been increasingly concerned about adherence to the remaining health regulations following the removal of the outdoors mask mandate on Sunday.
"I knew people will not use use masks indoors or at crowded outdoor events, and this lack of vigilance is terrible," she said.
"I am afraid we will undo everything we've accomplished thus far."
Rahav said Pfizer's vaccine trials in children over the age of 12 appeared to show it is safe, but FDA approval is still needed.
"This age group should be given the shots because of the emergence of variants and because they can be carriers and spreaders of the virus," she said.
Rahav said the Indian variant of coronavirus appears to be limited in its spread in Israel, but should be closely observed.
"There are no patients hospitalized with illness caused by the Indian variant. In fact, there are very few patients with COVID, I am pleased to say."