An Israeli expert panel on Tuesday advised a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to everyone aged 18 and above if the individual has received the third dose or has recovered from the disease at least five months prior to getting the fourth shot.
In a Jan. 25 statement, the Israeli Ministry of Health (MOH) said that the recommendation was made given preliminary data showing the fourth shot is able to increase protection over three times against serious COVID-19 and double the protection against infection compared to those who have received three doses.
The MOH noted in a separate statement that this data was according to a preliminary analysis performed by a team of researchers from the MOH, the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Technion, the Hebrew University, and the Gartner Institute at Sheba Medical Center.
Israel, which was among the first countries to roll out the shots about a year ago, is already offering the second booster to people older than 60 or those at higher risk of contracting the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, such as immunocompromised people and health care workers.
The implementation of the latest measure must still be approved by the health ministry’s director-general, the MOH said. It was not immediately clear when that might happen.
Total active cases in the country have risen to nearly 550,000, of whom 856 are currently hospitalized and seriously ill, figures from the MOH show.
The advisory board recommending the fourth dose for all adults comes amid Israel reporting more than 83,500 positive cases on Monday, the largest rise in infections since the start of the pandemic nearly two years ago.
Health authorities said they hope the fourth shot will blunt a wave of infections driven by the Omicron variant of the CCP virus, but some Israeli researchers have found that a second booster shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine may not be able to increase antibodies to a level high enough to protect recipients against infection from Omicron. Much of Israel’s COVID-19 vaccination program uses the Pfizer jab.
“Two weeks after administering the fourth vaccine, we see a good increase in the antibodies, higher than after the third dose, but not high enough against Omicron,” lead researcher at the Sheba Medical Center, Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay, told reporters in an online briefing.
Israel, which has already about half of its citizens jabbed with a third dose, has seen case rates skyrocket after the emergence of Omicron and is leading the world in new daily cases per capita, according to Jan. 20 data.
Eran Segal, a biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, verified this data, explaining that after comparing the numbers of each country’s seven-day running average, Israel is at the top, The Times of Israel reported.
Omicron has proven better at evading antibodies induced by COVID-19 vaccines than earlier strains and has infected millions of vaccinated people around the world, sparking a renewed effort by many countries to get people boosted.