More than one million Israelis have received the third-dose booster shot as the government races to squelch the spread of the Delta variant through another vaccination blitz, officials said Monday.
The government launched its latest vaccination campaign over two weeks ago, urging Israelis over 60 (since lowered to over 50) to get their third dose “booster,” which officials hope will help protect Israel’s most vulnerable from the new highly contagious variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
The latest figure — 1,048,767 — marks slightly over half the eligible population: The 1.9 million Israelis who are over 50 and got their first two vaccine shots over five months ago.
The campaign has now gone on long enough to produce the first useful data about the third dose’s effectiveness, officials said.
According to Health Ministry figures, the results are very promising. Third-dose recipients appear to be 2.5 times more protected from infection than those who only received the first two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The added protection appears appears to reach its peak about a week after the third dose is given.
“We’ve reached a million citizens who have taken responsibility for themselves and their surroundings and gotten their third vaccination,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said, in a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry.
“That’s a wonderful figure and a great achievement, but there’s a lot of work still to be done. Hundreds of thousands of people understand that our decision to administer the third shot is the need of the hour. Israel’s citizens are the first in the world to receive the third dose, and that’s not something we should take for granted. It’s the only way to safeguard our health and our livelihoods. Everyone who has yet to get vaccinated, go get vaccinated right now.”
“The vaccine is the most effective method we have to battle the Delta variant, to protect our health, our economy and our daily routine,” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said.
“We took care to have enough vaccines in stock for everyone who can do so to vaccinate. The time to take advantage of that is now. A million recipients of the third vaccine in two weeks is a good result, but it’s not enough,” Horowitz said. “The only way to get through this crisis without a lockdown is to continue the high rate of third-dose vaccination and to vaccinate those who haven’t [been vaccinated at all] yet.”
On Monday evening, Health Ministry figures showed the number of serious COVID-19 cases in Israel falling slightly since the previous day, in line with hopes that the effect of the third vaccine booster given to older Israelis was beginning to be felt. Active cases rose to over 53,000 after standing at around 200 just two months ago.
Ministry data showed there were 528 patients in serious condition. Of the seriously ill, 93 were on ventilators. In total, there were 881 people hospitalized with COVID-19.
The ministry said the rate of serious cases was far higher among unvaccinated Israelis aged 60-plus, who constituted 151.5 people per 100,000 in serious condition on Monday; among the vaccinated, the figure was 19.3, and among the partially vaccinated 40.9.
As of the evening hours, there were 7,177 new infections recorded on Monday, the highest figure in the current fourth wave of infections, taking the number of active cases in the country to 53,169.
The ministry said that 85,623 people were tested on Sunday, with the positivity rate showing a further rise to 6.08 percent — the highest level since February.
There were 19 fatalities since Sunday night, raising the death toll to 6,687.
Amid rising cases, Israel last month became the first country in the world to begin administering booster shots to those 60 and over, and was a pioneer once again on Friday, as it began giving third doses to people 50 and up.
Out of Israel’s population of some 9.3 million, over 5.8 million had received at least one vaccine dose, and more than 5.4 million had gotten two.
The Health Ministry said Sunday that Israel will reimpose caps on gatherings that will restrict attendance at private and public events, as well as rules requiring social distancing in businesses that serve customers in person, including stores and shopping malls.
The government is determined to avoid ordering what would be the country’s fourth lockdown since the coronavirus pandemic started, and is pushing vaccinations, along with some restrictions, as a way to confront a tide of infections expected before morbidity drops again.