COVID-19: Fourth vaccine shot for immunocompromised approved

The Israeli Teachers' Union is set to protest government's decision to cancel quarantine for schoolchildren.

Schools reopen after third national coronavirus lockdown, Feb. 11, 2020 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Schools reopen after third national coronavirus lockdown, Feb. 11, 2020
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)

The Health Ministry approved on Wednesday night a fourth COVID-19 shot for immunocompromised Israelis over the age of 18, hours after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced schoolchildren will no longer be required to enter quarantine after being exposed to classmates or teachers infected with corona.

In addition, Israeli citizens who are at high risk of exposure to coronavirus due to their employment can also receive a fourth jab. The fourth vaccine will only be given to Israelis who have passed four months since they were administered a third booster shot.

On Tuesday, Israel’s Pandemic Response Team and the Advisory Committee on Vaccines recommended a fourth jab be given to those under the age of 60 and over the age of 18 who have either recovered or received the third dose at least five months prior.

The new schoolchildren quarantine policy will go into effect on Thursday, allowing students who come into contact with corona to continue attending school after undergoing at-home antigen tests.

Under the new plan, students of all ages in nursery or kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school or in the religious education system will take two antigen tests a week, on Sunday and Wednesday. If they test negative, they will be exempt from isolation even if they come into contact with someone who is sick.

 Kaplan hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot on January 18, 2022. (credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90) Kaplan hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot on January 18, 2022. (credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

Schools and other educational institutions in Israel could be closed on Thursday after the secretary-general of the Israeli Teachers Union, Yaffa Ben-David, announced a teacher’s strike in protest of the government’s decision.

Teachers and educators at all public kindergartens and schools are set to protest on Thursday, while teachers working in special education schools will not take part in the strike.

The Education Ministry is working to issue protest prevention orders and has declared the strike illegal, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton said in a statement.

The strike is an "aggressive and political step taken on the backs of the children of Israel," the education minister stated, adding that Ben-David's calls to protest are "inappropriate and unacceptable during these trying times."

The Finance Ministry is also preparing to issue protest prevention orders, according to N12.

The government also announced on Wednesday that health workers in hospital inpatient units will begin working in emergency “Shabbat mode” format starting on Sunday, due to the continuous strain that the pandemic is putting on the healthcare system.

Physiotherapists, communication clinicians, dietitians and occupational therapists are among those who will be following the emergency mode.

The decision was announced in a letter sent by the Health Professions Association chairman Eli Gabay to Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash and Director of Salaries in the Finance Ministry Kobi Bar Natan.

“Many workers are in quarantine and many others are positive [for COVID],” Gabay wrote. “We will not be able to continue to give the dedicated care we provide on a daily basis in hospitals. Health professionals have been stretched too thin. I’m calling on Nitzan Horowitz to intervene in this severe crisis immediately.”

There are 8,072 healthcare workers currently self-isolating due to corona. The Health Ministry reported on Wednesday morning that there were 76,017 new daily cases recorded in Israel on Tuesday, a decrease from the previous day’s 83,613 cases.

However, serious cases have continued to rise, reaching a high of 888 on Monday. Of those, 187 are currently intubated.

Positive tests were returned at a rate of 21.8%, roughly the same as the previous day.

Likud MK Nir Barkat reported that he had tested positive for corona on Wednesday morning. He is reportedly feeling well and is acting in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines.

The Association of Pediatricians decided on Wednesday to withdraw its recommendation to cancel isolation requirements for schoolchildren exposed to corona. The increase in hospitalizations and the strain being put on the pediatric wards have caused it to reconsider its approval of the plan.

The Health Ministry is set to discuss on Wednesday whether to postpone or cancel the policy change. Bennett will also hold a meeting during the morning.

Israel’s Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry announced that it has started the distribution of nine million free antigen testing kits to 400,000 families across Israel.

According to the ministry, any family receiving assistance from the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry in any capacity is eligible to receive free test kits.

Additionally, they will be providing free kits to domestic violence shelters; nursing homes; and facilities for children, at-risk youths and people with disabilities.

On Wednesday, there were 16,180 IDF soldiers with corona.