(Jerusalem) As western countries strive to vaccinate as many of their populations as possible with two doses of COVID-19, Israel is venturing into uncharted waters by launching a campaign on Friday for a third dose of vaccine for people over 60.
Posted on Jul 30, 2021 at 6:25 am
Guillaume LAVALLÉE Agence France-Presse
New President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal wanted to lead the way by having this third Pfizer / BioNTech dose administered first in a ceremony at Sheba Hospital on the outskirts of metropolitan Tel Aviv.
The Hebrew state was one of the first countries to launch a massive vaccination campaign in December thanks to an agreement with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer that gives it quick access to millions of paid doses in exchange for data.
Israel had started vaccinating the elderly by separating the administration of the two doses of the vaccine by just three weeks before gradually expanding its vaccination campaign to young adults and then to adolescents.
This campaign made it possible to reduce the daily number of cases from around 10,000 to under a hundred, to defuse the economy and to partially reopen its borders.
But in recent weeks, with the spread of the Delta variant in unvaccinated adults, but also in people who were vaccinated more than half a year ago, the number of infections, then hospital admissions, has risen again.
In the past 24 hours, Israel has recorded 2,140 cases of COVID-19, the highest since March, and the country has, according to the Ministry of Health.
As a result of the increase, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Thursday evening a campaign to allow a third dose of vaccines to be given to people aged 60 and over, the first victims of COVID-19.
“Israel is leading the way in developing a third dose of vaccine for people 60 and older,” said Bennett, 49, who accompanied President Herzog to Sheba Hospital, said Friday. Benyamin Netanyahu, now opposition leader, also received a third dose.
“The only way to defeat COVID-19 is to act together. Together, this means sharing information, methods, advice and practical steps. The State of Israel is open to sharing any information it receives through this bold move, ”added Bennett.
Without the FDA
According to giant Pfizer, which makes the vaccine, which is primarily used in Israel, “new studies show that a third dose has neutralizing effects against the Delta variant. [qui sont] more than five times higher in young people and more than eleven times higher in older people. ”
But the US Food and Drug Administration, whose recommendations Israel generally follows, has not yet given the go-ahead for a third dose for the elderly.
“I think we could have waited for FDA approval because I fear that without that approval, public confidence will decline,” said AFP Hagai Levine, epidemiologist and public health researcher at the Hebrew University.
With the more contagious Delta variant, a gradual decrease in antibodies in the months after vaccination, older people less responsive to vaccines, and preliminary data supporting a booster dose, the government’s decision was “sensible,” he said.
And this, in his opinion, comes from the role of the “pioneer” Israel, of whom a large part of the population has been receiving two doses of vaccines for six months, which is not the case in countries like the United Kingdom or the United States.
“It’s a decision based on expert judgment, logic, but not solid scientific evidence. In public health and medicine, sometimes you have to make decisions based on experience and common sense, ”he says.
In Israel, a country of 9.3 million people, nearly 60% of the population have received two doses of the vaccine, with a rate of about 90% in people over the age of 60. But just over a million people eligible for the vaccine have so far refused.