The government of Israel has announced it will offer a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to health workers and people older than 60, amid concern about the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
A Health Ministry expert panel recommended the fourth shot late on Tuesday, December 21, a decision that was swiftly welcomed by Israelj Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as “great news that will help us overcome the Omicron wave that is spreading around the world”.
“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 in remarks relayed by his office, calling on those who meet the criteria to “Go and get vaccinated”.
The Israeli Health Ministry said in a statement that immunodeficient people will also be eligible for the fourth shot, which it said can be administered to them, the elderly and the medical teams at least four months after the third shot.
More than 4.1 million Israelis have received three doses of a coronavirus vaccine in the country of roughly 9.3 million people.
The decision comes after Israel recorded the first known death of a patient with the Omicron variant on Tuesday.
An Israeli hospital said he had suffered from a number of serious pre-existing conditions before his death and he was in his 60s.
“His morbidity stemmed mainly from pre-existing sicknesses and not from respiratory infection arising from the coronavirus,” it said.
Israel’s Health Ministry says there were at least 340 known cases of Omicron in the country and has banned travel to and from countries including the United States, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Canada to try to curb the spread of the virus.