Israel's Health Ministry expanded its COVID-19 booster shot campaign on Friday, allowing health workers, inmates and prison staff, as well as other high-risk groups to receive a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine at a younger age, in what has become a pioneering move on Israel's behalf.
The vaccine will be available to health workers aged 30 and older who come into contact with patients as well as incarcerated individuals and prison staff aged 40 and older if at least five months have passed since both groups received the second dose.
The third vaccine will also be given to people with disabilities aged 40 and up who reside in Welfare Ministry frameworks; residents aged 18 and over with weak immune system; and patients aged 40 and up in psychiatric hospitals and wards.
The decision comes a day after the ministry expanded the program to include all Israelis aged 50 and up, after administering shots to those above the age of 60 for two weeks.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Friday that he had spoken with the directors of the four HMOs and instructed them to double the vaccination rate next week, and to administer vaccinations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In coordination with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, it was agreed that the vaccination drive would be supported by IDF medics.
Israel's largest health maintenance organization, Clalit, said before the recommendation was announced that it would begin offering the shots to those over 50 next week. In a statement, Clalit said that scheduling appointments for the third dose would be possible starting Friday on its website.
On Friday, it was joined by two other major health care providers, Maccabi and Leumit.
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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.