Fourth COVID Vaccine Unlikely for Most People, Israeli Health Minister Says

Israel started administering a fourth COVID dose to most vulnerable groups as omicron surged

A nurse holds a vaccine booster dose in Shaare Zedek Hospital in JerusalemCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Israel's health minister said on Monday he did not think Israel would offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to most people after the government made it available to over 60s and other high-risk groups.

Israel has been administering the fourth dose to most vulnerable groups – such as the elderly, those with weakened immune systems and health workers – as omicron has surged. Other countries have made the second booster available.

"We took this step, we weighed it seriously, it wasn't a simple decision, but it's good that we did," Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said of offering a fourth shot to those groups.

"But regarding the entire population, I don't think we will go there," he told Israel Radio.

A government advisory panel has been discussing vaccine policy and there has not been a final decision about whether to expand the campaign.

The Health Ministry said on Sunday that a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine given to people over 60 in Israel made them three times more resistant to serious illness than thrice-vaccinated people in the same age group.

It also said the fourth dose made people over 60 twice as resistant to infection as those in the age group who received three shots of the vaccine.

A preliminary study published by Israel's Sheba medical center last Monday found that the fourth shot increases antibodies to even higher levels than the third but "probably" not to the point that it could completely fend off the highly transmissible omicron variant.

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