Over 4 million Israelis have received their third vaccine dose, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, marking a milestone in Israel’s efforts to get booster shots to a majority of the eligible population.
Health Ministry data showed that out of roughly 9.5 million people in the country, 4,001,031 Israelis have received their third shot, and over 5.7 million have received two doses as of Tuesday night.
Israel in August became the first country in the world to begin rolling out booster shots as health officials scrambled to contain the delta variant, and after finding that the protection offered by its initial two-dose vaccine campaign began wearing off after some five months.
A large-scale Israeli study published last month showed that a third booster shot was 92% effective in preventing serious illness compared to those who received only two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.
Health officials have said the third shot is effective at boosting protection and produces minimal side effects.
Recent debate has centered around approving the vaccine for 5-11-year-olds. Israel is expected to follow the FDA’s lead and okay the shots for the age group. Maid an angry debate, health officials have reiterated that Parents would be able to decide if their kids are vaccinated or not and it will not be compulsory.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Channel 12 news reported on Tuesday that health ministry officials were considering making children under 12 — who have recovered from the virus — eligible for the Green Pass for a year after their recovery before they would need to be vaccinated.
Currently, those over 12 are eligible for a period of six months.
Channel 12 said the change in policy was a result of a lack of data on how long the children in that age group who had recovered from COVID retained high immunity levels.
The Green Pass grants access to public venues for those who are either inoculated against the coronavirus, or have recovered from it, or have recently tested negative.
Also Tuesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced that they have agreed to end capacity limits on outdoor gatherings, as well as scrapping Green Pass restrictions on some events.
The obligation to wear a mask in an outdoor gathering of more than 100 people is set to be abolished (smaller gatherings already do not require face coverings). However, the obligation to wear masks indoors remains unchanged.
Israel was the first country to widely adopt the booster and the end of Israel’s fourth wave has been credited at least in part to its booster vaccine campaign, which began among those over 65 in August and was quickly rolled out to the rest of the population.
Around 650,000 people who are eligible for vaccines have not received any of the shots, while about 1.1 million Israelis eligible for the booster have yet to receive it.
Since then the US and other countries have followed suit, although some have approved the booster only for the elderly or those with preexisting conditions.
The booster shots have been widely credited with helping Israel overcome a fourth wave of the virus.
The number of active COVID-19 cases in Israel has dropped to 6,323 after being above 10,000 for over three months and after passing 90,000 in early September, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Health Ministry.
The data also showed 563 new cases were confirmed on Monday, down from between 5,000 and 6,000 daily almost two months ago. There were 153 people hospitalized in a serious condition and the death toll stood at 8,130.