Israel approves limited rollout of fourth COVID vaccine dose

Israel’s Health Ministry has approved a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine for highly vulnerable populations, a step back from an original plan to administer it to everyone aged 60 and over. 

The extra shot will be available for people who are immunocompromised, as well as residents of nursing homes, and patients at geriatric hospitals, according to orders issued late Thursday and Friday from Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash.

Israel’s handling of the coronavirus has been studied by other countries, because of its early administration of vaccines and boosters and comprehensive digital health data. It was the first country to offer boosters to much of its population after the delta variant sent infections soaring. 

Last week Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced the country would become the first to offer a fourth dose on a more widespread basis, after a forecast showed the fast-paced spread of the omicron variant would leave the population largely unprotected from infection. Israel, a country of almost 9.5 million people, recorded nearly 5,000 new cases on Thursday. 

But the ministry later said Ash hadn’t yet signed off on that decision, which had drawn criticism from some medical experts, including the country’s public health chief, Sharon Alroy-Preis. She protested at a meeting of government officials and medical experts that a trial at the country’s leading hospital hadn’t yet been carried out, according to Army Radio. That trial has since begun. 

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