A Health Ministry advisory panel on Tuesday recommended that the government make available a fourth coronavirus vaccine shot to Israelis aged 18 and above, on the condition that five months have passed since they got their third shot or recovered from the disease.
The committee’s decision came after the Health Ministry said on Sunday that a fourth vaccine dose for those aged 60 and up offers threefold protection against serious illness and twofold protection against infection in the current wave driven by the Omicron variant.
The ministry said the figures are the result of initial analysis by experts from various leading academic and health institutions, and compare recipients of a fourth dose with those who received a third dose at least four months ago.
The figures were based on 400,000 Israelis who received a fourth dose and 600,000 who received three doses, with the ministry stressing that the methodology was similar to that employed by the experts in previous papers they have published in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine.
The initial results will be updated over time as more data comes in.
Last week, preliminary results of a study conducted by Sheba Medical Center revealed that although a fourth dose of the vaccine increased the level of antibodies in the blood, it did not seem to offer protection against infection by the Omicron variant.
The panel’s recommendations are pending approval by Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash.
Health Ministry statistics released on Tuesday morning showed 83,613 new infections recorded a day earlier, the second day in a row with over 83,000 fresh cases. With more than 439,000 PCR and antigen tests carried out on Sunday, the positivity rate stood at 21.83%.
As of Tuesday morning, 580,369 Israelis were actively infected, with 2,256 hospitalized, of whom 845 were in serious condition and 177 on ventilators.
In the past week, 125 Israelis with COVID died, bringing the total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 8,487. Over the past two weeks, some 900,000 Israelis have tested positive for COVID, though experts believe that the actual figure could be several times higher.
With Israel seemingly hitting the peak of its fifth wave of infections, driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, Ash instructed hospital directors on Monday to prepare for a potential delay of non-life-saving treatments. In a letter to directors of hospitals across Israel, Ash said they should be prepared for an influx of COVID patients and should clear beds to make room, including in wards not dedicated to treating the virus.