COVID-19 booster to be given 3 months after 2nd dose, not 6 - Ash

The highly contagious Omicron variant is quickly spreading through Israel.

An elderly Israeli is seen receiving the third COVID-19 booster shot at a Clalit clinic in Jerusalem, on August 1, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An elderly Israeli is seen receiving the third COVID-19 booster shot at a Clalit clinic in Jerusalem, on August 1, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Israel will move forward with administering third coronavirus vaccine shots only three months after second shots, Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said on Monday.

Ash was affirming a recommendation made last week by the Pandemic Advisory Committee and the COVID-19 Vaccination Advisory Board. 

The committees had also recommended that a fourth shot be administered to people over the age of 60, individuals who are immunosuppressed and medical workers. Ash did not yet approve that recommendation. 

The country made the decision to speed up the booster shot as the Omicron variant is spreading throughout Israel. Studies by Pfizer and Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer have shown that three shots are necessary to ensure stronger immunity against the variant.

In Sheba’s study, which was released mid-December, researchers found that individuals who received their second dose five or six months ago did not have any neutralization ability against the Omicron variant.

Jerusalem resident Phillip Brieff is seen getting the third COVID-19 booster shot at a Meuhedet clinic, on August 1, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Jerusalem resident Phillip Brieff is seen getting the third COVID-19 booster shot at a Meuhedet clinic, on August 1, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Until now, a minimum of five months had to pass before people were eligible to receive a third shot, except in special cases.

Ash said that the new protocol applies for people who receive any of the vaccines available in Israel: Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca - and in any combination. He noted that while one can combine vaccines, it is recommended to get a third shot of the same vaccine received for the first two shots.

Finally, those who recovered and were then vaccinated are also eligible for the booster, so long as three months have passed. 

To date, Israel has administered 4.2 million third shots. There are a million Israelis who have had two shots five or more months ago and have not gotten their boosters, according to Head of Public Health Services Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, and another 325,000 who had two shots more recently and would now be eligible for the third dose.