Officials in Israel credit the booster shot with suppressing the latest wave of COVID-19-related infections. It has been administered to around a third of the population. The two countries agree that booster is the best way to go and they expect other countries and the U.S. to continue expanding their campaigns in the months ahead.
"The decision reinforced the results that the third dosage is safe," Dr. Nadav Nadav Davidovitch said, who heads the Ben-Gurion University's school of public and health medicine and chairs the country's association for public health physicians. Prioritization is the main issue now.
The World Health Organization called for a moratorium of boosters up to the end the year, so that more people living in poverty can receive their first doses. However, Israeli officials insist that the booster shot is equally important in the prevention of infections.
Davidovitch is also an Israeli expert panel member. He stated that "we know for certain that the current system vaccine nationalism hurts all of us and it's creating variants." He said that the problem goes beyond Israel.
After making a deal to exchange medical data with Pfizer, Israel raced to get vaccinated. It also bought large quantities of AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines.
The majority of adults had received two doses from Pfizer vaccine before March. This caused infection levels to plummet, and allowed the government to lift almost all coronavirus restrictions.
The highly contagious delta variant of the virus began spreading in June. Experts concluded that the vaccine was still effective against the virus but that it lost effectiveness approximately five months later.
Israel began to distribute booster shots to high-risk people in July. This included those over 60. It expanded the campaign to include the general public within weeks.
According to the Health Ministry, more than 3 million Israelis have received a third dose Pfizer vaccine.
Israeli experts published a study last week in The New England Journal of Medicine showing that boosters increased vaccine effectiveness tenfold in patients who had been vaccinated five years earlier than those who hadn't.
The study involved 1,000,000 people aged 60 or older. It found that the booster was very effective in reducing both confirmed infections and severe illnesses.
Dr. Sharon Alroy Preiss (a senior Israeli health official) was one of the experts who testified in support of the booster shot before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel. The regulator ruled against booster shots for the general public, allowing it to be approved only for those 65 and older and high-risk patients.
Experts pointed out that there is no safety data regarding extra doses. They also raised concerns about mass boosters being more effective than those targeted at specific groups. Similar endorsement was made by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the Israeli Health Ministry, the FDA decision "gave validity to the third vaccination operation" in Israel. It stated that statistics have shown that the booster dose has "restored immunity."
"A declining rate of new infections among seniors" has been observed in recent weeks, with the vast majority having received booster shots and "a constant increase in the number of unvaccinated individuals involved in severe cases." Dr. Ran Balicer, the head of the expert advisory panel for COVID-19 by government, stated to The Associated Press.
As the booster campaign was launched, the number of serious COVID-19 cases with unvaccinated patients has increased, while the overall number of new cases among those who have at least two shots has fallen.
Around 70% of Israel's 703 severe cases of COVID-19 in Israel were unvaccinated as a result of the fact that only 20% of them had received boosters. These two groups were equally present in serious cases a month prior to Israel's vaccinating 1.5 million people with the third dose.
More than 60% of Israelis, the vast majority of adults in the country, have had at least two doses.
Experts noted that Europe and the U.S. were months behind Israel's vaccination campaigns and predicted that these countries would soon follow their lead in the months ahead.
Balicer stated that "we are first experiencing a phenomenon which will soon become apparent likely in many countries in the coming month and create a similar challenge,". "We are the only ones who can walk in the shoes of other countries, if any, right now."
The U.K. is already launching a booster campaign with third doses being offered to those over 50 and other vulnerable group.
While much of the world is still waiting for vaccines, the WHO has urged rich countries not to exhaust their vaccine stockpiles. It said that while some people may need a third shot due to certain conditions, boosters for the general population are not necessary at this point in the pandemic.
It stated in a Friday statement that "the longer vaccine inequity continues, the more virus will circulate, change, the longer economic and social disruptions will continue, as well as the higher chances that vaccines will be less effective,"
Balicer stated that Israel is a small country that has very little impact on the global supply chain and that Israel's role as the world’s laboratory provides "a very valuable source of knowledge" to other countries.
Since his June election, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has exhorted people to get vaccine boosters.
He stated last week that Israel is the only country to offer its citizens the gift -- both legally as well as in terms of supply --of a boost.
Balicer stated that other states should prepare national plans to roll out booster shots.
He stated that countries who were vaccinated in the last year should be ready for the effects of waning vaccine immunity. This will make it even more difficult.