Israel May Push for Third COVID Vaccine Dose for High Risk Groups

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COVID vaccination facility in central Israel, last week.
COVID vaccination facility in central Israel, last week.Credit: Hadas Parush

The Health Ministry may recommend a third coronavirus vaccine for those with compromised immune systems, such as people with autoimmune diseases, people who have undergone organ transplants and cancer patients.

The pandemic response team was expected to discuss the matter Sunday evening, but no decision has been reported.

The need for a third vaccination is a subject of dispute, and Pfizer’s protocol does not make such a recommendation for any specific class of people. Nevertheless, the ministry is considering it to raise the level of antibodies among these groups of patients, and thus boost their immunity to the coronavirus.

Evidence of the vaccine’s effectiveness among those with weakened immune systems is not uniform. Most studies, including those done in Israel, show that the vaccine is less effective among these patients than among the rest of the populations, although it is still highly protective. Other evidence suggests that the level of antibodies among such patients is too low to produce sufficient immunity.

Infectious disease experts are the ones pushing to administer this group of patients a third dose, believing this would boost the effectiveness of the vaccine for them. Health Ministry sources say that those who support another dose are relying on studies done among two groups of patients, which showed that a third dose increases the effectiveness of the protection. Those sources note, however, that these studies have been criticized by professionals who believe they were based on too small a sample group.

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