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In world first, Israel officially approves third shot for elderly as virus cases mount

Number of patients in serious condition doubles in a week leading Israeli hospitals to reopen coronavirus wards

Benjamin Golan, a 96-old-year elderly Israeli receives a COVID-19 vaccine, Jan. 4, 2021. (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Several Israeli hospitals reopened their coronavirus wards on Wednesday as Israel’s Ministry of Health officially approved a third shot of the COVID vaccine for the elderly in an attempt to combat a vast increase in new coronavirus cases sweeping the country.

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash is expected to decide from what age the shots should be made available.

Earlier this month, in a decision that preempted the rest of the world – and despite a U.S. Food and Drug Administration statement that third shots are unnecessary – Israel began administering a third shot to people with a compromised immune system.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, the first person in Israel to be vaccinated, has been pushing for a third shot.

“The antibody levels against the coronavirus have decreased in millions of Israelis since the second shot,” his office said. “That’s the reason the former prime minister ordered and paid for millions of extra doses for a third shot. That’s why he has been calling for more than a month to bring these shots to Israel. The fact that the current government has not done so until now is a failure that will cost many lives.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday, a day before the third shot was approved, that he is “on top of it, believe me.”

If its pattern of vaccines rollout holds true, this likely means that Israel will expand the third shot to the entire population soon.

“We are on that, we’re very close, and it’s best to not to talk too much about it, as that way the chances of it happening will increase. It's on me.”

Since the outset of the vaccination campaign in December, Israel has led the world in distributing COVID vaccines – and also to whom it administers the injections. Back in January, Israel recommended that pregnant women get the shot despite the lack of clinical trials and well before the CDC and WHO did so.

Just this month, Israel also made the Pfizer vaccine available for children under 12 with immune challenges. Pfizer has not yet requested Emergency Use Authorization for this age group from the FDA.

The Health Ministry said children at risk and eligible to request the vaccine include those with extreme obesity, severe chronic lung illness, neurodevelopment disorders, congestive heart failure, sickle cell anemia and severe autoimmune diseases. Each case will be treated individually.

This decision comes despite a study from the same Health Ministry showing a link between the Pfizer vaccine and myocarditis – enlarging of the heart muscle – in recipients of the shot under 30.

With more than 2,000 new cases detected yesterday, hospitals began reopening their COVID wards. Serious cases, which had dropped to as low as 19, have reached 153 of which 35 are listed in critical condition.

Some 5,772,362 Israelis have received at least one shot, and 5,334,736 have received both.

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Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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