According to reports, the Health Ministry in Israel has decided to delay the administering of the fourth shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, which had been scheduled to begin on Sunday for people over the age of 60, those at risk and medical workers. On Thursday evening, a meeting was held by health ministry officials and the decision was taken. The director-general of the Health Ministry, Nachman Ash, has not given approval for the campaign and said that he had been examining the data from Britain, which indicates that the Omicron variant of the disease leads to less severe illness, as opposed to the Delta variant.
As per preliminary data from the public health agency in Britain, those suffering from the Omicron variant are 50% to 70% less likely to require hospitalization, as compared to people suffering from the Delta strain. The findings of the United Kingdom Health Security Agency add to increasing evidence that illness caused by the Omicron variant is milder than other variants. However, it spreads a lot faster and is also resistant to vaccines. If they find more similar data, it is likely that Ash may not support the decision of the advisory panel of the government to administer additional booster shots.
Instead, there is a possibility that the matter will be sent for further deliberation. Had the campaign been launched on Sunday, it would have made Israel the world’s first country to have given a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for certain groups. Another report indicated that Ash was likely to come to a decision about the booster dose in the middle of next week. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wishes to begin the launch of the new campaign as quickly as possible but has accepted that the final decision rests with Nachman Ash. On Tuesday night, the decision of the expert panel to administer the fourth shot had been welcomed by the premier.
He had immediately given orders to the officials for preparation of the campaign. Nitzan Horowitz, the Health Minister, and Ash’s boss stated on Wednesday that people who are eligible for the fourth shot would be able to get it on Sunday without requiring an appointment. The experts on the Pandemic Treatment Staff, which is a government body, highlighted that the fourth dose only be administered to at-risk individuals at least four months after their third dose. However, a senior health official had said on Thursday that the body had been under political pressure for approving this decision.
Even though the data indicates that Omicron may not be as dangerous as the Delta variant, the government is still fearful of a surge in the number of cases in the coming weeks. The Health Ministry expects that hundreds of thousands of people will have to be quarantined in the near future. On Thursday night, statistics released by the Health Ministry showed that 1,420 cases had been diagnosed on Wednesday, which is the highest number in a day since October. The positivity rate also reached 1.45% from 1.24% on Tuesday.