Israeli PM Tells HMOs to Prepare Third COVID Vaccine Rollout for Younger Age Groups

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Naftali Bennett at the inauguration of a new vaccine clinic in Jerusalem, earlier this week
Naftali Bennett at the inauguration of a new vaccine clinic in Jerusalem, earlier this weekCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ordered Thursday health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to prepare to roll out third vaccines for different age groups starting next week.

Later today, the vaccination committee will discuss the topic, with expectations that Bennett will approve vaccinating younger age groups as early as tonight. 

Experts explain: If most Israelis are vaccinated, why is COVID surging?

"We understand that a third shot supplies an additional layer of defense," Coronavirus Czar Nachman Ash told reporters on Thursday, "Which is why we are looking into expanding the dose to younger people; the examination is done in a professional and serious way."

Hospital staff get ready to treat coronavirus patients in Kfar Saba, IsraelCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

Vaccinating younger age groups with a third shot "should definitely be considered as something positive, since we are aware that the effectiveness of the vaccine decreases over time, and those in their 50s and even 40s are prone to illness," Ash said in an Army Radio interview. 

Israel reported 5,946 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday according to data published by the Health Ministry on Thursday, the day after Israel approved tightening proof of immunity and gathering restrictions as the delta variant continues to spread nationwide.

According to the ministry, the number of serious coronavirus cases in Israel topped Tuesday's six-month high, with 421 cases. There are currently 42,203 active coronavirus cases in Israel.

The rate of positive coronavirus tests rose from Tuesday's figure of 4.59 percent to 4.62 percent on Wednesday.

More than 5.8 million Israelis have received their first vaccine; 5.4 million have received their second vaccine. 716,618 Israelis have received their third coronavirus vaccine. 

On Wednesday, Israel approved expanding the Green Pass proof of immunity program to apply to Israelis aged three and up, as well as limiting gatherings. The new restrictions will go into effect next Wednesday. 

In the press briefing, Ash said that he expects the various measures adopted recently to combat the surge, along with the new vaccination push, will lower the rate of infection and the number of serious cases. "By how much? We'll have to wait and see," he said.

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