Israel will begin rolling out a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine with immediate effect. The additional dose will be given to people over 60 years-old, medical workers, and people with a suppressed immune system, the prime minister’s office announced, following a recommendation from the country’s panel of coronavirus experts.
“Wonderful news, do not waste time – go get vaccinated,” Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement.
Those eligible for the fourth dose will be given it provided at least four months have passed since their third dose.
“The State of Israel is continuing to stand at the forefront of the global effort to deal with the pandemic. The citizens of Israel were the first in the world to receive the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and we are continuing to pioneer with the fourth dose as well,” Bennett said.
In a related announcement, the recommended gap between a second and third dose is also being shortened from five months to three months.
One of the members of the expert panel told Israeli radio Tuesday evening that the decision to go for a fourth dose had not been an easy one.
“We don’t really have data yet on the level of immunity, like we did when we decided on the third dose, but on the other hand, there is really scary data out there in the rest of the world, Professor Galia Rahav said.
“In a situation like this, if you don’t act immediately, you miss the train,” she added.
New measures: The government’s ministerial committee tasked with driving policy on the pandemic also met Tuesday, deciding on a number of new measures in the wake of the new wave of infections brought on by the Omicron variant.
In particular, schoolchildren living in areas of low vaccine up-take among under-18s could find themselves back in online schooling as early as this week.
In areas with high Covid-19 case numbers, known as red or orange communities, only classes in which at least 70% of children have received at least one dose of the vaccine will be taught at school. Classes with lower vaccination rates will be taught online. The new policy goes into immediate effect for children age 13 and above; for younger children, it will take effect in three weeks’ time.
There will also be an increased requirement on Israelis to produce a "Green Pass" when out shopping. For instance, it will now be mandatory to show the pass to enter or work at a store larger than 100 square meters.
Earlier in the evening it was announced that public sector workplaces would reduce the number of staff working onsite by half. The measure will go into effect on Sunday and be in place for at least a month.
A few days ago, Prime Minister Bennett asked private sector businesses to encourage staff to work from home as much as possible.
Some context: Latest Omicron data in Israel shows 341 confirmed cases, of which more than two thirds were in people either fully vaccinated or recently recovered from the disease. In addition, there are more than 800 cases in which there is a high suspicion of the Omicron variant.
The total number of new Covid-19 cases in Israel topped 1,300 on Monday, a figure not reached since the middle of October.
The R co-efficient – the number of people infected by each Covid-19 positive person – is at 1.28, its highest figure since the height of the fourth wave at the beginning of August.