Lack of data leaves Israeli experts uneasy on third vaccine

As health system officials are preparing to recommend the booster shot for the public, some members of the Health Ministry's special team on pandemic say they had not received enough information; urge to wait for international regulatory approval

Adir Yanko|
With the Health Ministry's special team on the pandemic set to meet later Wednesday to discuss a possible third coronavirus vaccine shot, some experts have expressed reservations over the lack of data on such a move or regulatory approval from international bodies.
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  • Health officials believe the team will likely advise the Health Ministry to recommend a third vaccine for the general public. The panel will also discuss which age group will be first to receive the booster jab. Israel has already began administering a third booster shot to people with compromised immune system.
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    מתחסנים במנה השלישית לקורונה
    מתחסנים במנה השלישית לקורונה
    A vial of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine
    (Photo: AFP)
    If the recommendation is issued, the ministry is expected to adopt the decision so the vaccination campaign can begin next week.
    "If a decision is made today, it would not be a knock-out but by a hair's breadth," said a member of the panel.
    Dr. Leon Poles said that he is waiting to see a summary of the data accumulated by the Health Ministry on the effectiveness of the vaccine, along with the current epidemiological situation.
    "In my opinion, unless something dramatic and unexpected occurs, I do not see a reason to go all out for a third vaccine dose before we receive the proper regulatory approval from international bodies," he said.
    Dr. Poles pointed out that contrary to previous infection waves, officials are noticing that majority of vaccinated people don't require hospitalization and those who do, develop a "different illness profile" - with less severe symptoms than those who have not been inoculated.
    "There are no more excuses not to get vaccinated," he said.
    Dr. Doron Dushnitzky, an expert on pediatrics for Lehumi Health Services and a member of the Health Ministry's vaccine advisory board, said it's unclear whether the current outbreak is the result of deteriorating efficacy of the vaccine or a variant capable of partially weakening the immune system to make the inoculation less effective.
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    מתחסנים במנה השלישית לקורונה
    מתחסנים במנה השלישית לקורונה
    An elderly man receives his third coronavirus vaccine at Sheba Medical Center
    (Photo: AFP)
    "I am not sure that an additional vaccine dose will be more effective against the virus," he said.
    Another member of the panel criticized the ministry over the lack of data provided to the experts before the meeting on Wednesday, saying what was presented to them last week was "insufficient."
    "I feel that things need to be re-examined," he said. "We do not anticipate that there is an inherent danger here for people who will receive the third vaccine and so far the immunocompromised who have received it have not experienced any side effects.
    "For me, the issue is focusing on the proper things. When looking at the third vaccine, there are two issues to consider: the first is safety and the second is efficacy. The question is whether enough data has been accumulated so that we can make an informed decision."
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