Israel is Set to Offer 4th Dose of Pfizer Vaccine; Expert Says It Should Not Be Mandatory

© AFP 2023 / JACK GUEZA health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at Clalit Health Services, in Israel's Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on January 23, 2021.
A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at Clalit Health Services, in Israel's Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on January 23, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.12.2021
The decision to start mass vaccination yet again hasn't been taken yet, but the Jewish state is already encouraging its medical staff, people above 60 and those at risk to get the jab.
Israel is now mulling over the option of offering a fourth Pfizer vaccine, as coronavirus cases continue to go up and the Omicron variant -- believed to be dozens of times more contagious -- keeps spreading.
On Sunday, Israel registered more than a thousand new cases, almost double what was reported in the first two weeks of December. And the general feeling is that if the situation is not managed, it will spiral out of control.

Fourth Jab is Needed

Prof Nadav Davidovitch, the chairman of Israeli Public Health Physicians Association, says he has participated in the discussions, where he advised the government to go ahead with a fourth jab.

"Given the fact that we are seeing waning immunity after the third dose and since we are facing a huge wave of infections, my recommendation was to allow people of 60 and above and those at high risk to get the vaccine."

The way it stands now, 4.1 million Israelis have received their third dose of the Pfizer vaccine. But according to a recent study conducted in the United Kingdom on thousands of coronavirus patients who have been administered with a booster, the protection against the Omicron drops from 70 to 45 percent just ten weeks after the shot. And this is the reason why many experts in Israel are advocating for yet another jab.

Unnecessary Move?

But not everyone shares that optimism. Earlier this month, Prof Zvika Granor, an influential Israeli immunologist from Jerusalem's Hebrew University, said that that government has unnecessary unleashed a "panic response" against the Omicron coronavirus variant and stated that the decision to approve a fourth shot for some citizens was "totally unacceptable".
The reason for his criticism stemmed from the fact that Israel still lacks enough data about the administration of fourth doses. He also believed that the country should be waiting for Pfizer to update and upgrade its vaccine instead of relying on the original one that might not be coping that well with new strains of the virus.
Davidovitch acknowledges that some data is lacking but he also says the information Israel already possesses indicates that it is better to get the shot, rather than risk catching the virus.

We know that there will be an added value if a person chooses to get a fourth dose. We don't know how much it will be but we know for a fact that it exists. Plus, the vaccine is totally safe," he reassured.

Still Not Convinced

However, there are many in Israel who are still not convinced. Since the introduction of the third dose in Israel, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have chosen not to take the shot.
In September, it was reported that only 21.7 percent of people aged 20 to 29 have taken the jab. A similar trend has been registered with people in their 30s, and only those above 40s have shown more willingness to receive the vaccine.
Part of that reluctance has stemmed from the fake news circulated on social media platforms, where surfers were warned of the dire health complications the vaccine can unkey.
Many simply associate Covid deaths with the elderly. According to a study conducted by Israel Hayom cited in the Jerusalem Post, during the first wave of the virus (March-May 2020), the average age of Israelis who died was 81, whereas during the second wave (June - October 2020), the average age was 79. During the third wave, the average age was 77.
Another reason for their hesitation was the fact that many viewed the introduction of vaccines as compulsion and coercion, and their natural response was to reject them.
Many have even poured into the streets of Israeli towns and cities urging the government to change its policy vis-a-vis the vaccines, demands that have largely fallen on deaf ears.
Davidovitch says he understands some of the criticism he hears from the public. He admits that the vaccines should not have been presented as if they were a panacea able to solve the crisis. He acknowledges that authorities could have been more transparent at times and that some of their policies have infringed human rights.
And this is why the expert says the government should now learn from past mistakes.

"I think we should do nothing to encourage people to get a fourth dose. It should be optional, not mandatory. We should be putting our efforts in the second and third jabs because those will help us to protect our population."

Israel has not made a decision yet on whether to offer the fourth dose to the general public. So far, only the medical staff, people above 60 and those at-risk are encouraged to get the jab. But just as it was the case previously, many Israelis already believe that it is only a matter of time until another booster becomes mandatory.
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