Israel rolls out COVID-19 double-booster shot

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Jan. 3 (UPI) — Israel rolled out Monday it double-booster, a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose, to those over age 60 and medical workers.

The rollout expands the country’s limited double-booster effort launched last week for older residents with compromised immune systems and some healthcare workers amid the Omicron surge.

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“Omicron is not Delta,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters at a press conference Sunday. “It’s a different ballgame altogether.”

Bennett also announced the approval of the fourth dose to Israelis over 60 and medical workers who received their booster shot at least four months ago at a press conference Sunday.

“We’ve been the first in the world [with the] booster shots, and that policy has protected Israel’s citizens well,” he said.

Bennett added that Israel’s death rate from COVID-19 has been 50 times lower than Britain’s, 100 times lower than Germany’s and 130 times lower than the United States.

Still, Israel has had over 5,000 new cases a day amid the Omicron surge, will likely hit 20,000 new daily cases by week’s end, and could hit 50,000 daily cases at the wave’s peak, Bennett said.

The vaccine is the only effective way to counteract the Omicron surge, he said, urging Israelis to wear masks in crowded spaces, especially indoors, and the elderly to entirely avoid crowds.

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Since the pandemic began, Israel has had over 1.4 million cases and more than 8,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s global tracker.

Israel led the world in early vaccination rates, but currently lags behind several other countries in rates of fully vaccinated population, with Gibraltar, Maldives, Portugal, Malta and the Cayman Islands among the countries with the highest rates of fully vaccinated, according to Bloomberg’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker.

The same vaccine tracker shows 65.5% of Israel’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 47.1% has received a booster dose.