Israel has approved a fourth total — or second booster — dose of COVID-19 vaccines for those who are most vulnerable to the illness, according to The Associated Press.
The decision, which was approved by the Israeli Director-General of the Health Ministry Nachman Ash, makes Israel one of the first countries to approve such a widespread measure as the nation tries to mitigate the impact of the latest COVID-19 surge driven by the omicron variant of the virus.
Israel was also one of the first countries in the world to launch an initial booster campaign over the summer as health officials noticed vaccine immunity waning, Reuters noted.
“In light of the gaps in knowledge in the world in the present situation, we are acting cautiously and responsibly,” Ash said. He said he will continue to monitor the situation to determine whether to expand eligibility for the fourth dose.
Israel’s Health Ministry expert panel recommended last week that the second booster shot be administered to people over the age of 60, those with compromised immune systems, and health care workers in order to lessen omicron’s impact. The panel recommended that those people be eligible for a fourth dose four months after they received a third.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has praised the recommendation, expressing hope that the measure will help offset the impact of omicron.
On Monday, Israel began its trial of a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose, which is believed to be the first of its kind worldwide. The trial is assessing the impact of the dose on the creation of neutralizing antibodies against the omicron variant, as well as how participants fare with their shots. It is being conducted with 150 medical worker volunteers, all of whom received a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in August.
Germany and the U.K. are also weighing the decision to administer second booster shots to vulnerable groups.
“Personally, I would expect a fourth vaccination,” said Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who also is a scientist and physician. He also stated that he “would assume” that the fourth shot “will be necessary.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began allowing adults with compromised immune systems to receive a fourth dose booster shot of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in October.