If we need it, a fourth shot won’t be a problem - expert

According to Sheba Medical Center Prof. Eyal Leshem, there is no reason to believe that repeated vaccinations against corona would cause any problematic side effects.

 A MEDICAL TECHNICIAN administers the third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine in Tel Aviv earlier this year.  (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
A MEDICAL TECHNICIAN administers the third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine in Tel Aviv earlier this year.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

No one knows if a fourth corona vaccination is going to be needed, but if is, it won’t be a problem, Sheba Medical Center Prof. Eyal Leshem said on Thursday, as Israel continued to experience an increase in cases.

“The fact that we can protect people using a safe and simple intervention like a vaccine is very reassuring, compared with the situation we had in December 2020, when we could not do anything other than tell everyone to lock down in their houses,” said Leshem, director of Sheba’s Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases.

According to Leshem, there is no reason to believe that repeated vaccinations against corona would cause any problematic side effects.

“There are many vaccines that we receive on a recurring schedule, including the flu one,” he said. “I do not think that there is any problem.”

Israel has been experiencing an increase in new cases over the past few days. As of Thursday, there were 6,800 active cases in the country, compared with 5,000 just days earlier.

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other top officials are seen following the completion of the COVID-19 'war games' exercise. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other top officials are seen following the completion of the COVID-19 'war games' exercise. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

Exactly 543 cases were reported on the previous day, compared with 492 and 497 on the previous two Wednesdays.

Since cases began to rise, speculation has mounted on whether immunity against corona offered by the booster is beginning to wane.

While the Health Ministry sent out a statement on Wednesday confirming that data suggest the protection of the third shot is strong, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said in an interview with Channel 12 later in the day that it is not unreasonable to think that a fourth vaccination will be needed.

Leshem said there is no way to know if this will be true.

“We are seeing a decline in antibodies, but this is natural,” he said. “We need to see what it means in terms of public health and clinical outcomes.”

In the past few days, 9% of the new cases were registered among people vaccinated with a booster. A month earlier, they were 6%.

According to Leshem, this is simply a consequence of more people having gotten the third shot – 4.058 million Israelis, compared with 6.27 million who received one shot, 5.76 million who got two, and around three million who are not vaccinated at all – including children.

“If we look at the data, those who got the booster are significantly underrepresented compared with the unvaccinated,” Lashem said.

When looking at serious patients, whose number has continued to decline, the difference is even more striking. There were 120 such patients in Israel as of Thursday, compared with 236 four weeks earlier.

Of those, 99 were not inoculated, six were inoculated more than six months earlier – and thus not considered protected anymore – and only 13 were fully vaccinated.