Official said to reject PM's push for 3rd shot for over 40s

Government assures public there is no vaccine shortage

Health Ministry expert says national lockdown during the High Holidays ‘is not inevitable,’ can be avoided with vaccinations

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

An Israeli woman receives a third coronavirus vaccine injection at a senior center in Jerusalem, August 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
An Israeli woman receives a third coronavirus vaccine injection at a senior center in Jerusalem, August 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett assured the public on Thursday evening that, despite reports to the contrary, there is no shortage of COVID-19 vaccines in Israel.

“Israel has a sufficient stock of vaccines both at the present and for future needs. Several shipments have arrived in recent days; this will continue,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

The statement said that the exact number of vaccines in Israel’s stockpile and in future shipments cannot be made public “for reasons of confidentiality.”

Speaking to Channel 12 news on Thursday evening, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the head of the Health Ministry’s public health department, said there may be delays of a few days in making appointments, but that supplies will not run out.

Alroy-Preis also said that a nationwide lockdown in September, over the Jewish high Holidays, is not inevitable.

“It’s obviously an option, but it’s in our hands,” she said. The current health rules, she added, won’t drive down infection rates considerably, but are meant to “buy time” for children and teenagers to get vaccinated and to inoculate those over 60 years old with a booster shot.

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Health Ministry, speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Lockdown is not a strategy, it’s a tactic, a step that you try to avoid unless you really, really have to [employ it],” Alroy-Preis said. “Right now, we don’t have to. We need to run and get vaccinated.”

A shipment of hundreds of thousands of Pfizer vaccines is expected to arrive in Israel on Saturday night, according to Channel 12.

Demand for a third booster dose of the COVID vaccine among those over age 60 has been high since the campaign officially launched on Sunday. According to the latest Health Ministry figures, 295,585 had people received a third dose as of Thursday evening. That accounts for nearly a fifth of the adults in that age group.

According to a Ynet report, Bennett pushed the coronavirus cabinet this week to expand the booster doses to all those over age 40, but was rebuffed by Alroy-Preis.

“That’s not a governmental decision, that’s a medical decision,” she reportedly said. “The people who will decide that are the experts on the Health Ministry vaccine committee.”

People, some wearing face masks, walk on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on August 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to a Channel 12 poll published on Thursday, the public is losing faith in Bennett’s ability to handle the coronavirus outbreak. The poll showed that 54 percent of respondents say the government is handling the situation poorly, while 37% say it is doing well, and 9% say they don’t know.

Among respondents, 46% believe a new lockdown is unnecessary, while 40% say one should be instated, and 14% don’t know.

The coronavirus cabinet officially voted on Thursday to approve new measures agreed to earlier this week aimed at stemming the uptick in COVID cases.

The restrictions, which take effect on Sunday, include requiring masks outdoors for gatherings of 100 people or more and expanding the Green Pass system — restricting access only to those who are vaccinated, recovered or present a negative test — to all gatherings from August 20, and not merely those with over 100 people, as is currently the case.

But under the new regulations, synagogues will only be required to follow the Green Pass system if they have more than 50 worshipers, unlike all other gatherings, which must restrict access to the unvaccinated no matter their size.

According to Ynet, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Public Security Minister Omer Barlev opposed making an exception for synagogues, and ultimately voted against the measures, which passed regardless.

As of Thursday evening, there were 25,467 active COVID cases in Israel, with 461 hospitalized, 262 in serious condition and 51 on ventilators. Since Sunday, 32 people with COVID have died in Israel.

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