Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Sunday that Israel will offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to health care workers and individuals 60 years old and older in an effort to bolster protection amid the omicron wave of the pandemic.
Eligible individuals can receive the fourth jab if they received their previous dose at least four months ago.
Bennett said his announcement came after Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash made the decision to allow a fourth dose for medical workers and individuals over the age of 60 following conversations with various experts.
Bennett said the “significance” of the announcement was “considerable,” pointing to “a new layer of production.”
“Here it must be said that our country, one of the first in the world with the boosters, safeguarded Israeli citizens very well,” Bennett added.
He said the new omicron variant, which is highly transmissible, is “different from previous strains.”
“It acts differently; therefore, it obligates us to adapt everything that we have known about the coronavirus up to now,” he added.
The approval of second booster shots for medical workers and individuals 60 and older comes after Ash approved a fourth dose for individuals with weakened immune systems late last month.
At the time of that approval, Ash said the country would “continue to track the data on a daily basis and we will see if we need to broaden this recommendation to more of the population,” according to The Associated Press.
Israel’s decision to broaden eligibility for a fourth vaccine dose comes as the country is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases. The country is now reporting more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections per day, which is significantly higher than the around 500 it was averaging daily in November, according to data compiled by The New York Times.
Bennett, at his Sunday press conference, called on all eligible individuals to get the fourth jab, calling Israel a pioneer in the global vaccination effort.
“Israel will once again be pioneering the global vaccination effort. Omicron is not delta — it’s a different ballgame altogether. We must keep our eye on the ball, act swiftly and decisively if we want to continue engaging and working with an open country as much as possible throughout this pandemic,” Bennett said.