Israelis over the age of 60 and medical teams will be eligible for a fourth Covid vaccination to protect against the fast-spreading omicron variant, prime minister Naftali Bennett has announced.
“The citizens of Israel were the first in the world to receive the third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and we are continuing to pioneer with the fourth dose as well,” he said on Tuesday, calling on those who meet the criteria to “go and get vaccinated.”
Bennett’s remarks came after a meeting of the country’s ministerial coronavirus cabinet which convened amid growing concern over the spread of the Omicron variant.
The premier called the pandemic expert committee’s decision to go ahead with a fourth dose “wonderful news that will assist us in getting through the Omicron wave that is engulfing the world”.
A statement from the health ministry noted that immunodeficient people will also be eligible for the fourth shot, which can be administered to them, elderly people and the medical teams at least four months after the third shot.
Bennett’s office said the premier had instructed the health ministry and health funds, which administer the vaccinations, to prepare the “widespread (vaccination) operation”.
The decision follows the first known death in Israel of a patient with the Omicron variant. An Israeli hospital on Tuesday confirmed the death but said he had had a number of serious pre-existing conditions. The Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba said the man, in his 60s, died on Monday, two weeks after he was admitted to the coronavirus ward.
A hospital statement said the patient had a variety of serious illnesses. “His morbidity stemmed mainly from pre-existing illnesses and not from respiratory infection arising from the coronavirus,” it said.
On Tuesday, the health ministry said there were at least 340 known cases of Omicron in Israel. Israel has already this week expanded a travel ban to countries including the United States, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Canada to try to curb the spread of the virus.