Young Israelis don't appear to be in a rush to get the COVID vaccine booster shot, with inoculation rates among those age groups look to be among the lowest in the country, new health data reveals.
According to the Health Ministry data released Monday, since the booster vaccine drive was expanded to all ages three weeks ago, only 21.7% of Israelis aged 20-29 received the booster shot. Among those aged 30-39, less than one third received the booster, while among those aged 40 and over the third vaccine inoculation rate stands at 42%.
The Health Ministry announced last month that from October 1 the Green Pass will only be valid if a holder received a booster vaccine shot or if the first two doses were administered less than five months ago.
The ministry officials believe the main reasons for low vaccination rates among young Israelis is a concern that booster shots will have to be received every six months, serious side effects, reduced willingness to fly abroad amid pandemic and lack of incentives for vaccination.
Israel's Health Maintenance Organizations admitted that their vaccination centers are currently empty, and there is no strategic plan to encourage youngsters to get the third jab.
Dr. Doron Dushnitsky, the head of coronavirus patient care at Leumit Health Services, said that when it was first announced the Green Pass will be invalid for many from October, it encouraged the young people to get vaccinated, but since then, less and less people make appointments to get the booster.
"At first the vaccination compounds were full, but now they are empty, even though we try to raise awareness through media, the momentum is gone", said Dushnitsky.
"Many people hesitate to take the booster, because they lost their trust after they were promised the second shot would last longer than it did and they also keep asking if this is going to be the last one," Dushnitsky said.
Dushnitsky added that unlike the first and second shots, this time they didn't receive an organized work plan from the Health Ministry, and if the situation will continue that way, even less people will be willing to get vaccinated.
Other HMOs reiterated the sentiments, reporting low vaccination rates. "As we see it, there is a decrease in vaccination rates among younger people and we haven't received any work plan from the Health Ministry to increase those rates", said Dr. David Dvir, head of the primary care division at the Meuhedet Health Services and a member of an advisory panel on coronavirus vaccinations.
He added the low rates are also a result of young people not fearing to become seriously ill from COVID and therefore feel less inclined to get vaccinated.
"People need to understand that as time passes [after the second shot], the antibodies decrease and their defense against COVID weakens, so the chance to get ill are higher," he said.
He also said that it seems like the public isn't aware of the fact that from October 1, all those who didn't receive the booster shot will lose their Green Pass and won't be able to enter places that require it. "You need to remember, that maybe you'll feel bad for a day or two due to the booster's side effects, but it's better than the severe effects that come with COVID during the illness and even afterwards."