The third shot of the coronavirus vaccine is 86 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 infection among people 60 and older, one of Israel's leading health care providers announced Wednesday.
A Maccabi Healthcare Services study, the first of its kind in the world, surveyed 149,144 people who received the booster shot and a control group of 675,630 people who received the second shot in January or February. Of the former, only 37 tested positive, compared with 1,064 of the latter. The first group was surveyed a week after receiving the third dose.
"The third shot is highly effective both against infection and serious illness," said Anat Ekka Zohar, the head of Maccabi's Quality, Research and Digital Health Division.
"I call on anyone 50 and over who hasn't yet received the third shot to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones. The vaccine's effectiveness is proving itself against the delta variant and is the solution for curbing widespread infection."
Israel began providing booster shots two weeks ago. Over the weekend, it expanded the campaign to the 50-59 age cohort, to employees of geriatric and health care institutions, and to people who suffer from underlying conditions. So far, 1.1 million Israelis have received a third shot.
On Thursday, Israel's vaccination committee is due to discuss providing the third dose to Israelis 40 and over.
Over the weekend, the World Health Organization urged wealthy countries to stop with their third-shot programs, arguing that these efforts while many poor countries have barely begun with their first doses are both morally and epidemiologically unacceptable.
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“The more people remain unvaccinated against #COVID19 globally, the more opportunity the virus has to spread and evolve into potentially more dangerous variants, which increases the risk for everybody. This is why we need a moratorium on boosters,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted Sunday.
Israel has ignored the WHO plea. The Health Ministry told Haaretz that its decision took into account the lives that the booster saves.
Israel hopes that a third dose will boost antibody levels and thereby stop the spread of the virus, and above all the rise in the number of serious cases.