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Israel approves third dose of COVID-19 vaccine for elderly

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Israel’s Health Ministry says a team of experts has endorsed a third dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for the older population, becoming the first country in the world to do so.

The health ministry said in a brief statement on Thursday morning that a team of experts had voted in favor of a booster shot, although the experts were divided on whether eligibility should begin at 60 or 70.

“The recommendation was forwarded to the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Prof. Nachman Ash, who is expected to make a decision in the coming days about the vaccine and the target population,” the health ministry said in the statement.

Israel, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, is trying to contain a new surge of coronavirus cases. More than 2,300 new cases were reported on Wednesday, the biggest one-day increase since March 11, and the number in hospital has doubled to 263 in just over a week.

Pfizer reported on Wednesday that a third dose which is given at least 6 months after the second dose strongly increases protection against the Delta variant. It said neutralizing titers against the variant were more than 5 times higher in younger people and more than 11 times higher in older people than after two doses.

Also on Wednesday, new data showed that the efficacy of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine fell from 96% to 84% over a six-month period, but the overall efficacy against severe disease remained strong at 97%.

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