The Israeli panel recommends a fourth dose of Covid vaccine for all adults

The Israeli Vaccine Advisory Panel has recommended a fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine for all adults, for the first time in the world, as the country struggles with an increase in infections caused by the Omicron coronavirus variant.

This move follows a study that shows that the fourth dose doubles the protection against symptomatic Covid and increases the protection against severe disease by three to five times compared to three doses.

Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the United States and Chile, have signed fourth doses for immunocompromised people, such as those living with HIV or some transplant recipients, but have been reluctant to launch a large-scale second reinforcement campaign.

The Israeli Vaccine Advisory Committee “recommends that those aged 18 and over can be vaccinated with a fourth dose of vaccine,” the Israeli Ministry of Health confirmed in a statement. The implementation is subject to approval by the Director General of the Ministry of Health Nahman Ash.

People will become eligible five months after the third dose or after recovery from the disease, the ministry added. In the last two weeks, about 900,000 Israelis have tested positive for Covid.

Israel became the first country to distribute fourth doses to people over 60, health workers and people with weakened immune systems in late December. About 600,000 Israelis have already received a second booster, and about half of the population has received a third injection.

A senior Israeli government scientist told the Financial Times that the recommendation was based on allowing “individual decision-making” rather than “pushing” fourth doses on younger groups. “We make people guardians of the decision,” he said.

He added that this was a “rather unusual” recommendation aimed at balancing the “accumulating evidence” of the proposed protection against serious diseases with the “many open questions” about safety risks and the likelihood of weakened immunity.

The World Health Organization last week approved third doses, saying they should be a priority for vulnerable people. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Israeli decision on Tuesday.

Marco Cavaleri, head of the European Medicines Agency’s strategy for biological health threats and vaccines, told reporters earlier this month that the increase is not something the agency believes can be done “continuously”. . . every three to four months ”for the general population. In addition, vaccination advisers in the UK said in January that “there is no immediate need for a second booster dose”.

“We do not want to force people to receive it and say that if they do not receive it, they are doing something wrong,” said Boaz Lev, head of the Israeli vaccine advisory panel. “We want everyone to decide if they want another protection.”

He said that although the data was limited, the evidence showed that the fourth dose was “in many ways life-saving”. The latest study on the effectiveness of the fourth dose, conducted by several Israeli universities and Shiba Medical Center, compared about 400,000 quadrupled people with 600,000 triple kills and was published on Sunday.

Asked if other countries would follow suit with a broad campaign for a fourth dose, Lev said: “My crystal ball broke and I didn’t buy a new one. Each side. . . it’s different and they’re trying to learn from each other. “

A total of 83,613 people in Israel tested positive for Covid in the last 24 hours as the Omicron wave flooded the country, bringing record levels of infection. As of Tuesday morning, there were 2,256 Covid patients in hospitals, of whom only 177 needed mechanical ventilation, according to official figures.

Additional report by Mehul Srivastava in Tel Aviv

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