Israel to examine 3rd vaccine dose for people with impaired immune system

Pfizer has not yet sanctioned booster shots, but there is concern vaccine less efficient in protecting such individuals, Kan reports

Medical staff prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at a vaccination center in Versailles, France on May 29, 2021. (Stephane de Sakutin/AFP)
Medical staff prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at a vaccination center in Versailles, France on May 29, 2021. (Stephane de Sakutin/AFP)

Health Ministry officials will meet Sunday to consider offering third doses of the Pfizer vaccine to individuals with weakened immune systems, Kan news reported Friday. This despite the fact that the company has not yet sanctioned third doses.

According to Kan, some health officials believe enough information has been gleaned about the vaccine to do so. They are concerned by data that shows the vaccine has been less efficient in protecting immunocompromised people, the network reported.

Immunocompromised individuals include organ transplant recipients and cancer patients.

The report said officials will also discuss booster shots for the elderly, though medical history rather than age is expected to be the most influential factor for the time being.

Israel has seen some 300 daily coronavirus cases in recent days, the highest rate since April, amid a resurgence of COVID-19 in the heavily vaccinated country.

The spike in cases, blamed on the ultra-infectious Delta variant, comes as Israel races to vaccinate its preteens and teenagers aged 12-15.

The ministry expects daily diagnoses to jump to 500-600 next week, according to media reports.

A health worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine shot at a vaccination center in Jerusalem, on March 11, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As of Friday afternoon, 27 people in Israel were in serious condition from the virus. Six of the serious cases this week were of vaccinated individuals. All were over 60, with previous medical issues.

The Delta variant of the virus, first identified in India, is more contagious than other variants and may be better able to bypass vaccines, but is believed to not generally cause serious infection among the vaccinated. The variant is thought to be around 40% more contagious than the original strain, according to the United Kingdom’s public health agency. The effectiveness of two vaccine doses for protection from hospitalization is at 96%, according to the agency.

With case numbers rising, Israel has thus far reimposed an indoor mask mandate, cracked down on travelers arriving from countries with high infection rates, and enforced quarantine for new arrivals more strictly, but has sought to avoid a return to the restrictions it largely emerged from over the last two months.

Meanwhile, Israel has been seeking a recipient for over one million excess Pfizer vaccine doses it has that will expire by the end of July. A swap deal would see it provide the doses now to a recipient nation and in return receive one of that nation’s future shipments from Pfizer.

If Israel fails to find buyers, vaccine doses worth hundreds of millions of dollars could be thrown away within weeks.

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