Israeli COVID expert panel recommends expanding 4th vaccine dose to all adults over 18

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(JTA) — A panel of experts that advises the Health Ministry on matters related to the coronavirus is recommending that all adults over the age of 18 be offered a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine, The Times of Israel reported.

Israel is believed to be reaching or approaching the peak of its Omicron wave, with over 83,000 new cases reported on Sunday alone. More than half a million people in Israel are currently infected with the virus.

Israel began offering a fourth dose of the vaccine to adults over the age of 60 earlier this month despite minimal data showing that a fourth dose would increase immunity to the virus. Israel was the first country to administer a third coronavirus vaccine, a practice which became widespread in the face of waning immunity and the lowered effectiveness of just two shots in preventing an infection from Omicron.

More than 600,000 Israelis have received a fourth coronavirus vaccine and nearly 4.5 million have received a third vaccine dose.

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On Sunday, the Health Ministry announced the preliminary results of a study which showed that the fourth vaccine dose tripled protection against serious illness and doubled protection against an infection with the Omicron variant compared to those who received only three shots. The study included 400,000 adults who received a fourth dose and 600,000 who received three doses.

Those results contrasted with a less promising announcement last week from the Sheba Medical Center, which is studying the effects of a fourth dose of the vaccine.

“We see an increase in antibodies, higher than after the third dose,” Gili Regev-Yochay, a top researcher from the hospital, said, according to The Times of Israel. “However, we see many infected with Omicron who received the fourth dose. Granted, a bit less than in the control group, but still a lot of infections,” she added.

The advisory panel’s recommendation would have adults over the age of 18 receive a fourth shot at least five months after receiving their third shot or recovering from the virus. The recommendation is subject to approval by the Health Ministry’s director-general.


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