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Israel pleads for people to avail of Covid booster vaccines as infections surge

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the access to vaccines is ‘a unique privilege’

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett receives a booster shot.
Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett receives a booster shot.
Image: Maya Alleruzzo/PA Images

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett received a Covid-19 booster shot today as the country began administering them to people aged 40 and over amid a spike in infections.

To try and contain the spread, authorities last week began administering a booster shot to those aged 50 and older, after starting a campaign for over-60s late last month. From this weekend, Israeli’s over 40 will be able to get a booster jab. 

At a public hospital in Kfar Saba, a central city near Bennett’s home, the 49-year-old Israeli premier kept his eyes on the nurse administering the shot to his left shoulder, with his office saying he was the first head of government in the world to receive a booster.

“We’re at the height of the battle now, together we can win; it’s within arm’s reach, but we’re not there yet,” Bennett said shortly before receiving the shot.

I’m asking of you — use this unique privilege you have as Israelis, and go get vaccinated.

Infections in Israel have in recent weeks surged, raising fears of a lockdown over the Jewish High Holidays, which will take place in September.

More than 8,400 people tested positive for Covid yesterday, with this week’s figures the highest since January. The spike has seen the country impose new restrictions, with vaccine passes now expanded for access into more public settings. 

The government is, however, keen to avoid more stringent curbs. 

“If you go get the third shot, we can avoid a fourth lockdown,” Bennett said. “We’re seeing profound efficacy of the vaccines working, it’s safe and it’s the way to defeat this virus.

Israel was one of the first countries to launch a vaccination drive in mid-December via an agreement with Pfizer to obtain millions of paid vaccine doses in exchange for sharing data on their effectiveness.

The inoculation campaign was hailed as a success story that helped drastically reduce infections in the country of nine million. But cases have been rising due to the spread of the Delta variant among the unvaccinated and waning immunity in others.

According to the health ministry, 58%of Israel’s roughly 9.3 million residents have received two shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, with about 13% having received a third jab.

It comes as a new study found that the effectiveness of two-doses of the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19 declines faster than that of the AstraZeneca jab.

“Two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech have greater initial effectiveness against new Covid-19 infections, but this declines faster compared with two doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca,” researchers at Oxford University said.

The study, which has not been peer reviewed, is based on the results of a survey by Britain’s Office for National Statistics that carried out PCR tests from December last year to this month on randomly selected households. 

Boosters

The World Health Organisation has called for a moratorium on Covid vaccine booster shots to help ease the drastic inequity in dose distribution between rich and poor nations.

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On Wednesday, WHO’s emergency director Mike Ryan said that booster shots were like “planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets, while we’re leaving other people to drown without a single life jacket.”

© – AFP 2021

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