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Israel will offer the updated COVID-19 booster shots from Pfizer designed to combat the Omicron BA.4/5 subvariants by the end of September, a senior health official said on Wednesday.
Israel’s coronavirus task force chief Salman Zarka urged those in risk groups to take the booster along with a flu shot, though anyone above the age of 12 and at least three months from a previous shot or COVID-19 illness would be eligible.
“We have been preparing for a while for winter and looking at the possibility of two illness waves in the country, flu and coronavirus, two waves we have seen elsewhere in the world,” Zarka told reporters.
Around half of Israel’s 9.4 million population has already had three vaccine doses and around 850,000 people have had four, according to health ministry data. More than 4.5 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Israel since the start of the pandemic, with 11,667 recorded deaths.
Pfizer/BioNtech’s so-called bivalent vaccine targets the currently circulating BA.4/5 as well as the strain of the virus that originally emerged in China in December 2019.
While the existing coronavirus vaccines used until now have provided good protection against hospitalization and death, their effectiveness, particularly against infection, was reduced as the virus evolved.