Israel on Thursday approved a fourth vaccine dose for the Jewish nation’s most vulnerable as coronavirus cases spike globally with the spread of the omicron variant.
Nachman Ash, director general of the Health Ministry, announced the move during a news conference and said that those who are immunocompromised will be offered the latest booster round.
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“We will 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,” he said.
The health ministry has reported that roughly two-thirds of Israel’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and nearly half have already received all three shots.
Israel was one of the first nations to roll out the Pfizer vaccine a year ago and started the distribution of booster shots over the summer.
But the Middle Eastern nation still saw case spikes with the spread of the delta variant this summer and caseloads are expected to again increase with the omicron variant currently plaguing nations like the U.S. and U.K.
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Israel is also one of the first countries to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19-fighting pill known as Paxlovid.
The pill is expected to help ward off symptoms of the deadly virus, which was previously only achieved through an IV or an injection – a move that could ensure hospitals do not reach capacities that were seen at the onslaught of the pandemic.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Paxlovid would help Israelis to “successfully overcome the peak of the approaching omicron wave.”
Israel has received 20,000 doses, with more shipments expected as Pfizer continues to ramp up production.
Israel has reported over 1.3 million cases since the start of the pandemic with over 15,200 new cases reported in the last week.
Another 8,200 COVID-related deaths have been confirmed from the virus, though just four were reported over the last week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.