Israel's Latest Vaccine Move Practically Lets All Adults Get Second COVID Booster

The ministry director general approved the coronavirus booster for those who declare they may be ‘significantly exposed to the virus at work,’ but no proof is required

Michael Hauser Tov
Yaron Kelner
A patient being vaccinated in Jerusalem in January.
A patient being vaccinated in Jerusalem in January.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Michael Hauser Tov
Yaron Kelner

Israel’s Health Ministry on Wednesday approved permitting anyone 18 or older to receive a second COVID-19 booster shot, conditioned only on their declaring that they are exposed to the virus in the course of their work. No proof of such exposure is being required.

The second booster will be made available to qualifying individuals who received the first booster shot at least four months before as well as those who have recovered from the coronavirus at least four months previously.

Prior to Wednesday’s decision, the second booster had already been made available to Israelis 60 and over. As of Thursday, more than 600,000 Israelis have received the booster dose in a vaccination campaign that began at the beginning of the month.

The country’s health maintenance organizations admit that they have no way of confirming that a particular patient is at risk of “significant exposure,” as Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash’s directive states for those 18 and over.

“We will permit anyone claiming to be at risk to get the vaccine,” Maccabi Healthcare Services head nurse Tammy Alkalay said. “If someone [18 or over] says that they work at a store or bank and are exposed to possible infection, we have to accept the declaration and permit them to get vaccinated.”

In addition to those exposed in their work, Wednesday’s decision permits adults with underlying medical conditions and their caregivers as well as the staff of patient care facilities and those caring for the elderly to receive the second booster.

Health Ministry Director General Nachman AshCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

In expanding the availability of the second booster, Ash adopted only a part of the set of recommendations of a panel of experts. The committee had suggested permitting anyone 18 or over to receive the second booster at least five months after the first booster. Thirty-three of the panel’s 49 members voted in favor of the recommendation. Among the opponents were those who believed that the decision was based on data that was too preliminary or incomplete.

In another development, Ash raised the possibility that the green pass – the Health Ministry’s downloadable certificate of vaccination or recovery that is required for admission to a large number of public venues – may be discontinued or limited.

On Thursday, Ash said the ministry is considering either doing away with it, limiting its use or extending its validity further. The green pass was initially due to expire next week but has now been automatically extended until the end of February. Ash urged those who have downloaded it in the past to do so again to receive a version with the new expiration date.

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