Shortly after the government approved a third vaccine shot for all Israelis over the age of 40, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, 49, received his own booster shot before the cameras on Friday.
Bennett said that an open Israel was “within reach” for the coming High Holiday period in September, “but we’re not there yet. I say this in the clearest way possible: If the Israeli public, if you go out and get vaccinated with a third shot, we will be able to avoid a fourth closure.”
With Israel leading the world in the number of third vaccine doses given out, Bennett urged the population to “embrace this unique privilege you have as Israelis — go and get vaccinated.
“You can protect yourselves, your livelihoods, our economy, our security, our kids’ health. We can beat Delta, but it’s up to all of our cooperation.”
In comments in English, he added: “Israel is the pioneer of the third dose of the vaccines. We’re seeing profound efficacy of the [third dose of the] vaccines, it’s working, it’s safe.”
He said that Jerusalem will “share all the data, all the information, all the insights in this pioneering [effort]. I’m happy to hear that many other countries are following suit, because, at the end of the day, this is a global war on COVID and we’ve got to win.”
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked also got her vaccine shortly after Bennett and called on everyone eligible to do so as soon as possible. “It’s a privilege that is an obligation!” she tweeted.
זכות שהיא חובה!
לא בזבזתי זמן גם בטיול בצפון ובאתי להתחסן בטבריה
אני מבקשת מכל הנופשים, תעשו הפסקה של חצי שעה ובואו להתחסן בטבריה, קריית שמונה ומתחמי החיסונים בצפון.
תודה ללינה לאוז מכללית רקתי, לא כאב בכלל!
אפשר להגיע בלי תור, פשוט תבואו! pic.twitter.com/ksfr1qUvfH
— איילת שקד Ayelet Shaked (@Ayelet__Shaked) August 20, 2021
Vaccine booster shots were made available on Friday to all Israelis over the age of 40, as long as they had their second shot over five months ago.
The booster shots are now also available to several other groups of people over the age of 18: Pregnant women, teachers, healthcare workers, staff in nursing homes and welfare programs, prisoners and prison guards, and at-risk groups including overweight or diabetic individuals.
Bennett said that he expected that the third shot will eventually be made available to the entire adult population.
The program has already seen over 1.2 million people over the age of 50, the immunocompromised and healthcare workers receive a third dose of the shot.
Speculation that the program will be expanded further has ramped up since United States health officials announced on Wednesday that a third dose will be offered to anyone over the age of 18, starting September 20.
Last month, Israel became the first country in the world to begin offering booster shots to people over the age of 60, and, last week, expanded the eligibility to those over 50.
Israel has seen case numbers skyrocket in recent weeks due to the Delta variant of the coronavirus, with over 7,000 news cases reported daily in recent days, and some 600 people hospitalized in serious condition with the disease. A total of 6,752 people have died from the virus since the start of the outbreak last year.
Channel 12 news reported on Thursday evening that officials on the Israeli government coronavirus panel have assessed that without a third shot, some 100 vaccinated individuals aged 40-49 will experience severe COVID illness over the next 30 days.
According to experts on the health panel cited by the network, those vaccinated with a booster shot are six to eight times less likely to have a severe case of the disease and four times less likely to get infected, compared with those who received two doses.
The experts also increasingly believe that the Delta variant is not particularly capable of bypassing the Pfizer vaccine used in Israel, rather, it is simply the waning effect of previous shots that is causing vaccinated people to fall ill, according to former Health Ministry director-general Gabi Barbash.
The booster’s ability to once again protect much of the population from the Delta variant once administered is evidence of this, he told Channel 12.
Bennett’s government has resisted calls for tighter restrictions or a lockdown to bring down infection rates, insisting that the socioeconomic damage wrought would be too great. The administration has touted vaccines as a healthier way to thwart the spread of the virus.