Health Ministry expands COVID booster shot drive to ages 30 and up

Nitzan Horowitz pledges there are enough vaccines for everyone; experts say 3rd dose ending surge of serious cases, though daily infections still climbing

An Israeli man receives a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, at a Maccabi healthcare services vaccination center, on August 22, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
An Israeli man receives a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, at a Maccabi healthcare services vaccination center, on August 22, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Tuesday announced that Israelis age 30 and over are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster, expanding the program days after lowering the minimum age to 40.

The new policy is effective immediately and those eligible should turn to their health providers to set up appointments, the ministry said.

“We made sure we have enough vaccines for everyone. The vaccination campaign works efficiently and quickly. Go get vaccinated,” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz tweeted on Tuesday.

Only those who received the second vaccine dose at least five months earlier are eligible for the shot.

Israel is the first country in the world to offer a third vaccine to such a broad slice of its population, as it seeks to combat the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Last month, Israel became the first country in the world to begin offering booster shots to those age of 60 and up, and has been gradually lowering the age limit since. On Friday, it began offering the shot to the 40-49 age group.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz receives his third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, August 13, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

According to Health Ministry data on Tuesday, 1,575,898 Israelis have received a third dose of the vaccine so far.

Israel has seen coronavirus case numbers skyrocket in recent weeks due to the Delta variant. Over 9,800 new cases were reported Monday, and 678 people were in the hospital in serious condition with the disease. A total of 6,864 people have died from the virus since the start of the outbreak last year.

But early data has shown the booster dose curbing the surge in serious cases.

“There is cautious optimism, and we see a curbing of serious morbidity,” Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the ministry’s head of public health services, told Channel 12 news on Friday.

On Tuesday, Alroy-Preis told the Ynet news website that more needed to be done to stop COVID’s spread.

“So long as we don’t put in place some sort of restrictions that will also significantly lower morbidity, the numbers will continue to climb, so we need both — we also need to lessen contact between people, meaning limiting gatherings,” she said. She noted that the ministry had suggested limiting gatherings held even in accordance with Green Pass restrictions to 500 people outdoors and 400 indoors.

Eran Segal, a COVID expert and one of the top government advisers to the coronavirus cabinet, said Tuesday that the rate of serious cases was significantly slowing.

But at the same time, the number of new daily cases remained high. Segal explained that the booster shot was preventing more new cases from deteriorating into serious condition.

Hebrew-language media reports have indicated the ministry is expected to open up the booster shot for all ages in the coming weeks.

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