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Israel delays rollout of 4th COVID shots amid signs Omicron less severe – report

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash speaks during a press conference about COVID-19 in Jerusalem, on December 12, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash speaks during a press conference about COVID-19 in Jerusalem, on December 12, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry has decided that Israel will not begin offering fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Sunday as planned for Israelis over 60 and others at risk, Channel 13 news reports. The decision was made at a meeting held by the ministry this evening, it says.

The report notes that Nachman Ash, the ministry’s director-general, has yet to approve the campaign and says he has been examining data from Britain indicating the Omicron variant of coronavirus causes less severe illness than the Delta strain.

The network says that if more such data accumulates, Ash may not back the government advisory panel’s recommendation from Tuesday night to offer the additional booster shots at this stage to medical personnel, over 60s, and at-risk groups, and instead send the matter back for further deliberation.

Israel was set to become the first country in the world to roll out a fourth dose for certain groups.

A separate report from the Kan public broadcaster says Ash will likely make a decision on whether to approve the fourth vaccine doses by the middle of the next week.

Kan says Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wants to start administering the additional booster shots as soon as possible but acknowledges Ash has final say on the matter.

Bennett on Tuesday night had welcomed the expert panel’s recommendation and ordered that officials prepare the campaign to distribute the vaccines.

Ash’s boss, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, had said yesterday that those eligible for a fourth shot would be able to get it as soon as Sunday without needing an appointment.

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