Last week, experts in Israel allowed the vaccination of kids aged 5 to 11. Israel was also the first country to offer a third dose – the so-called booster shot – to its citizens.
Israel started its vaccination campaign in December 2020, after signing a deal with BioNTech-Pfizer. The successful vaccination campaign, together with the introduction of a “green pass” in March are the reasons why Israel was able to lift most restrictions already in June. However, during the summer the country has experienced a rapid increase of covid-19 cases due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant. In mid-September, Israel reported the highest number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Most infected people were unvaccinated individuals of the younger population, but several vaccinated people had to be hospitalized as well. The Delta wave made it clear that two doses of vaccine were not enough to protect from the variant. This is the reason why Israel was one of the first countries to start administering booster shots in July. According to Salman Zarka, Israel’s “coronavirus czar” and head of the national Covid task force, “the main weapon that we have in Israel and in many other places is the vaccine.” Speaking with DW, Zarka said that this decision was based on scientific studies demonstrating that the immunity lasts only six months.
According to Gabriel Barbash, a professor for epidemiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science and one of Israel’s top health experts, the third dose saved the country. However, although booster shots are successful, their protection effects are going to diminish. “It’s going to wane and we need to be ready, we need to be cautious about it,” said Barbash. To avoid another surge of cases, the government has decided to reintroduce the indoor mask mandate and has tightened its green pass system. The green pass includes an ID number and a QR code. Those who don’t have a green pass can get a 24-hour pass by taking an antigen or “fast” test.
Epidemiologist Barbash said that Israel is like a laboratory for the whole world thanks to the fast pace of vaccinations. Studies are currently underway to understand for how long the third dose will provide immunity.