- Israel started giving booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine to all people over 50 on Friday.
- Healthcare workers, vulnerable people, prisoners, and wardens are now also eligible for the booster.
- Vaccines help protect against severe COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Israel started delivering booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to over 50s on Friday as the country tries to control a new surge in cases.
“Starting this morning, people between the ages of 50 and 60 have been vaccinated at Clalit clinics across the country,” said Ran Balicer, chief innovation officer at Clalit Health Services and the chairman of Israel’s national expert panel on COVID-19, France 24 reported.
The use of booster doses of the vaccine was approved late Thursday night, the Israeli Health Ministry said in a statement.
Healthcare workers, people with weakened immune systems, prisoners, and wardens can now also receive a booster shot, the ministry said in a statement.
“This is an important step in the fight against the Delta pandemic,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a Thursday statement.
Israel started giving booster shots to people over 60 two weeks ago, citing a drop in protection over time against severe disease driven by the Delta variant. Vaccines help protect against severe COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said at the time that if the booster shot succeeds in lowering cases of severe illness, that would “give us a powerful tool against the pandemic,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
The move to expand booster shots to people over 50 comes as COVID-19 cases surged in Israel, reaching more than 6,000 new cases a day, according to John Hopkins University data. That is in spite of almost 60% of the population being fully vaccinated, according to the data.
Some evidence suggests mRNA immunity could be waning
COVID-19 vaccines still fulfill their primary role: protecting against severe disease and death. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccinated people who catch the Delta variant are 25 times less likely to have a severe case or die. The overwhelming majority who do catch it have mild or no symptoms.
Some studies have found that the level of protective antibodies could drop over time and that giving boosters for the Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac vaccines raised the level of neutralizing antibodies, Nature News reported.
But whether booster shots can improve the protection given by vaccines for the general population is unclear at the time.
On Thursday, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the authorization of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for immunocompromised Americans, who are known to be more vulnerable to vaccine immunity waning.
But it is unclear when or whether US health agencies will move to give boosters to the general population. In July, the CDC and FDA issued a rare joint statement saying it was too early to recommend boosters.
The World Health Organization has also said that it was too early to recommend booster shots. Because shots still protect against severe disease and death, they should be prioritized for people who have received no dose of vaccine and are at great risk of dying from COVID-19, it said.