Israel said Sunday it will begin offering a booster injection of Pfizer Inc’s vaccine to adults with weak immune systems, but it was still considering whether a third round of injections should be given to the general public.
The rapid spread of the Delta variant has again boosted vaccination rates in Israel, as new infections have risen from single digits to about 450 per day in the past month.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said immune-compromised adults who received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine could immediately receive a booster shot, with a decision on wider distribution not yet known.
Pfizer and partner BioNTech SE, the key suppliers in a rapid Israeli vaccination rollout that began in December, said Thursday they will ask US and European regulators to allow booster shots within weeks.
The two companies cited an increased risk of infection after six months when applying for permission for a third injection.
The companies were criticized by some scientists and officials for not sharing the data showing that risk, but said it would be made public soon.
“We are investigating this matter and we still don’t have a definitive answer,” Horowitz said, speaking on Kan public radio, of a booster for the general population in Israel.
“In any case, from now on we will give a third injection to people with an immune deficiency. These are, for example, people who have had an organ transplant or have a medical condition that reduces immunity.”
About half of the 46 patients currently hospitalized in serious condition in Israel have been vaccinated, according to data from the Ministry of Health. Israel’s response coordinator for the coronavirus pandemic, Nachman Ash, said on Wednesday that the vast majority of them are from high-risk groups, are over 60 years old and have previous health problems.
Horowitz said the Department of Health would separately fill a Pfizer supply shortfall for continued two-dose immunizations of the general adult population by using Moderna Inc vaccines already in stock.
Israel has almost exclusively administered Pfizer injections to about 60% of its 9.3 million inhabitants. But a consignment of 700,000 doses expiring at the end of July was sent to South Korea, as a recent slowdown in vaccination rates would likely have resulted in the doses being lost.
Under the swap deal, Seoul will return the same number of shots in September and October, which are already on order from Pfizer.
“We have Moderna vaccines, and adults who want to vaccinate can do that from this morning, or maybe tomorrow, with the Moderna vaccines,” Horowitz said.
“As for young people, we vaccinate them with Pfizer and we are doing our best to bring forward Pfizer deliveries,” he said.
Israel hopes that earlier deliveries will allow more young people to be vaccinated before the start of the school year in September.
According to Health Ministry regulations, Israeli youth can receive Pfizer injections, but not Moderna’s yet.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)