Israel has already administered a third vaccine dose to almost a million people, its health ministry has said, amid calls by the World Health Organization to delay such booster shots until poorer countries get their first jabs.
The number of Israelis who have received their third dose of the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19 has reached 963,572, the country’s Ministry of Health announced on Monday.
In late July, Israel became one of the first countries in the world to begin administering booster shots to already fully vaccinated residents. These were initially offered to those over the age of 60, but last week the program was expanded to include residents over 50, as well as healthcare workers, prisoners and people with deficient immune systems.
The push for a third dose started as Israel’s new prime minister Naftali Bennett came under intense political pressure amid a recent sharp spike in infections and hospitalizations, in a country that had celebrated victory against the virus not so long ago. Health officials have also been voicing increasing concerns over the potentially waning efficacy of Covid-19 jabs in the face of the more contagious Delta variant, which saw both vaccinated and fully vaccinated people becoming ill.
There were 5,075 positive tests in Israel on Sunday, with 519 coronavirus patients logged as being in serious condition, according to the health ministry’s data.
Bennet has been actively promoting the controversial booster-jab practice, going as far as saying that elderly people, who refrain from getting the third dose, were “in mortal danger.” He also insisted that Israel was doing the world a “great service” by administering booster shots and sharing its data.
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When addressed by Haaretz paper, Israel's Ministry of Health said that the decision to give a third dose was made after “medical factors were taken into consideration” and insisted that it helped save lives.
But the World Health Organization (WHO) has a completely opposite view on the issue, with the UN body’s head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus taking to Twitter on Sunday to once-again urge a “moratorium on boosters.”
It was just one in a whole series of tweets by Ghebreyesus, in which he insisted that it was wrong, from both a moral and an epidemiological standpoint, for rich countries to offer a third dose to their residents when poorer nations couldn’t access any vaccines at all.
“The more people remain unvaccinated against Covid-19 globally, the more opportunity the virus has to spread and evolve into potentially more dangerous variants, which increases the risk for everybody,” the WHO chief pointed out.
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Earlier this week, the US Federal Drug Administration also authorized a third vaccine dose for immunocompromised persons, while President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, suggested that everyone could require booster shots at some point.
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