Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Thursday evening the official rollout of a third COVID vaccine dose for those over 60, and urged eligible Israelis to schedule appointments starting on Sunday.
“After a series of discussions with health experts in Israel and around the world, led by Health Ministry professionals, the expert panel of doctors recommended by an overwhelming majority — 56-1 — to protect the older population in Israel,” said Bennett in live primetime address on Thursday.
Therefore, he said, booster doses of the COVID vaccine will be given starting next week to those over age 60 who are more than five months after their second shot.
“The reality has proven that the vaccines protect against serious cases and against death,” said Bennett. “And just like you need to get a new flu shot every year, here too” the vaccine requires a refresh.
Bennett called on all eligible Israelis over 60: “Go and get the booster vaccine. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones.”
The prime minister said that President Isaac Herzog — who is 60 — will be the first to get the booster shot on Friday morning. Bennett himself is only 49.
Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 71, was the first Israeli to receive the COVID vaccine in December, and he too will receive a booster next week.
A poll by Channel 12 published on Thursday evening shows that 72 percent of Israelis over age 60 intend to receive a third COVID-19 vaccine dose when it becomes available, 9% say they won’t get it, and the rest say they are undecided. A poll by the Kan public broadcaster showed 75% said they would receive a third dose, and 80% said they think more COVID restrictions are needed.
The Channel 12 poll also indicated that a majority of Israelis disapprove of the current government’s handling of COVID, with 52% saying it is bad and only 39% saying it’s good. And 43% of respondents said that Netanyahu handled the coronavirus crisis better than Bennett, while only 21% said Bennett was doing a better job than Netanyahu did.
Bennett called on the public to ensure that those eligible for the third dose make appointments.
“Call your parents, your grandparents, make sure they get the booster shot as soon as possible,” he said, noting that the first call he will make following his speech is to his mother, who is 78, “to take her to get the vaccine immediately, because I want to protect her.”
The prime minister said the emphasis on vaccinations — including for teenagers — is designed to avoid lockdowns, school closures and other intrusions into daily life. He also noted that more than 2,000 people in Israel with compromised immune systems have already received a third dose, “with no severe adverse events.”
Following Bennett’s speech, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said that hundreds of thousands of vaccines will arrive in Israel in the coming days in order to ensure a sufficient stockpile. Earlier this month, Bennett said he reached a deal with Pfizer to receive a new shipment of vaccines on August 1. Israel’s current stockpile of Pfizer vaccines expires on July 31.