Israel is offering Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots to people with weakened immune systems, as the country mulls whether an added jab is necessary for the general population.
Israel’s health minister, Nitzan Horowitz, announced Sunday that immunocompromised people in the highly vaccinated country who had received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine could get an immediate booster shot, the Guardian reported.
“These are for instance people who have undergone organ transplants or suffer from a medical condition which causes a drop in immunity,” Horowitz explained, according to the outlet.
“We are examining this issue and we still do not have a final answer,” the health minister added about a potential third jab for non-immunocompromised Israelis.
Israel has fully vaccinated around 60 percent of its 9.3 million population so far, according to the Guardian.
Israel’s decision to go ahead with booster jabs comes as Pfizer’s executives will soon meet with US health officials to discuss a potential greenlighting of a third dose.
Pfizer and vaccine partner BioNTech recently said a booster COVID-19 vaccine ensures the “highest levels” of protection against mutations — including the Delta variant, the highly infectious strain which first emerged in India in December.
Israeli people wait at a vaccination site in Tel Aviv on July 5, 2021.Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images
“As seen in real-world evidence released from the Israel Ministry of Health, vaccine efficacy has declined six months post-vaccination, at the same time that the Delta variant is becoming the dominant variant in the country,” the drugmakers told CNBC on Thursday.
According to data released last week by Israel’s Ministry of Health, the effectiveness of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in warding off both infection and symptomatic disease dropped to 64 percent — down from the 95 percent protection it offered against the initial strain of the bug, the ministry said.
Still, the mRNA vaccine has a 93 percent success rate at preventing hospitalizations and serious illness from the bug.
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci insisted Sunday that data and studies don’t prove a third dose is needed to protect against the highly contagious Delta variant “right now.”
However, there may come a time when a booster jab of Pfizer is deemed warranted.
“Right now, given the data and the information we have, we do not need to give people a third shot, a boost, superimposed upon the two doses you get with the mRNA and the one dose you get with J&J,” said Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Even though the CDC and the FDA correctly said, right now, we don’t feel you need a booster, that doesn’t mean that we’re not very, very actively following and gathering all of this information to see if and when we might need it,” he then reiterated Sunday on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration maintain that Americans don’t yet need a third dose.
“Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time,” they said Thursday in a joint statement.