Israeli Experts Split on Giving COVID Booster Shots to Those 45 and Over

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An Israeli man receives his coronavirus vaccine at a health clinic in Ramat Hasharon, earlier this month
An Israeli man receives his coronavirus vaccine at a health clinic in Ramat Hasharon, earlier this monthCredit: Nimrod Glickman
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

After 10 days and 578,000 booster doses of the coronavirus vaccine administered to Israelis over the age of 60, the Health Ministry and its advisory panels are discussing whether to extend the program to those aged 45 and over.

Among experts on the pandemic response team, there is no broad support in favor of giving the shot to those younger than 60 just yet, with opinions divided on the matter, sources familiar with the subject said, noting that those supporting the move and those opposing it are split almost equally.

Nevertheless, the attitude could shift within days, in accordance with the morbidity trends, or marked signs of a positive impact of the third shot on those 60 and over.

The team broadly believes that the shot does more good than harm, and experts have already begun to discuss giving the shot to younger people, particularly health workers, though there were still disagreements. But as a source on the team said, “The higher the number of seriously ill climbs, the less opposition there is.”

Because Israel is at an advanced stage in the standard vaccination campaign, any expansion is a pioneering step. Receiving the third dose, although a calculated and reasonable risk according to many experts, is not yet based on an orderly trial protocol and is somewhat of a gamble, though more in terms of how effective it is, rather than if it is safe. 

According to the Health Ministry announcement, among the nearly 600,000 people who have gotten the third dose, fewer than 50 have reported side effects. The reported symptoms (pain at the injection site, fever, and nausea) were mild and passed quickly.

Prof. Ran Balicer, who heads the cabinet of experts and is a member of the response team, tweeted on Tuesday that if the third dose among those 60 and over continues to prove safe and effective, Israel would expand the campaign to include other groups.

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