Israelis who suffered serious side effects after the first two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine could be granted a “Green Pass” without receiving a third booster shot, a top health official said Tuesday.
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Health Ministry, told a hearing of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee that authorities are looking into the issue. Alroy-Preis, appearing virtually at the hearing, was asked by Prof. Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist at Hebrew University, about those who had severe side effects from the first or second dose.
“We are establishing an exceptions committee for this issue,” Alroy-Preis told the hearing. She said that such exceptions are not currently in the protocols for the third booster, “but if we feel there is a need to include something in the administrative instructions, we can.”
Fewer than half a percent of Israelis reported significant side effects to their doctor following the first and second doses. The Health Ministry said even fewer reported side effects after receiving the third dose.
As of Sunday, Israelis who have been vaccinated twice against the coronavirus more than six months ago are no longer eligible for a “Green Pass,” which grants access to many public facilities, including indoor dining. According to Health Ministry statistics, more than 1 million Israelis lost their Green Passes under the new system.
As of Tuesday morning, 6,150,462 Israelis had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, 5,661,428 had received two doses, and 3,594,416 — close to 39% of the population — had received three. Israelis who have recovered from the coronavirus in the past six months or received one dose either before or after testing positive are also still eligible for a Green Pass.
At a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel’s fight against the coronavirus was scoring successes.
“In the campaign against the coronavirus, it seems, at this stage, that we have the upper hand,” said Bennett. “All indicators are showing a gradual decline in morbidity.”
According to the latest Health Ministry statistics, serious COVID cases in Israel are continuing to decline, hitting 505 on Tuesday — the lowest figure since mid-August. The rate of positivity has also declined in recent weeks, with just 2.7% of those tested Monday coming back positive, compared to 5.64% two weeks ago.
But Bennett said that despite the promising figures, “we cannot become complacent in the face of this evasive virus,” and pledged to continue to press for booster vaccines and Green Pass adherence across the country.
The prime minister said that 30 million rapid testing kits are on their way to Israel in order to enable the launch of a pilot program in the education system that aims to prevent large-scale quarantines when one student tests positive. Under the program, students who were exposed to a positive classmate will not have to quarantine if they are tested every day for a week.
There are currently 37,553 active coronavirus cases in Israel, with 751 people hospitalized, 505 in serious condition and 198 of those on ventilators. Close to 1.3 million Israelis have tested positive for COVID since the start of the outbreak, and 7,843 have died.