Bennett expected to back third dose of vaccine for elderly

A panel of health experts approved the move on Wednesday, but the opinion was not unanimous. 

By Meira Svirsky, World Israel News

After a panel of experts recommended that Israelis over the age of 60 receive a third coronavirus vaccine to boost their immune system, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is expected to throw his approval behind the plan on Thursday.

The Delta variant has caused a surge in cases in Israel – as well as an increase in cases listed as serious – which is making health officials on edge.

New daily infections numbered over 2,000 beginning Monday, according to government data, with serious cases climbing from 124 to 159 in the same period. Twenty-six people are currently ventilated. However, the average number of deaths per day in the last month has remained steady at one per day.

The recommendation by the panel comes before the Federal Drug Administration’s approval of a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which would be used in Israel for the booster dose.

The decision of the panel was not unanimous, according to reports by the Hebrew media. Recent data coming out of Israel showed that the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing serious illness in the general population dropped from 97 percent in April to 81 percent in July. However, among the elderly, the data showed it dropped to 50 percent.

Yet many top health professionals have questioned this data – particularly because of how it was gathered, citing a conflicting report out the UK recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The UK study showed that the vaccine was still 88% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID infections, while Israeli data concluded that the vaccine is now only 39% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID.

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One of the areas of disagreement is the definition of what actually constitutes a “serious” patient.