Israeli expert panel advises 4th vaccine dose for adults

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Esther Pamensky, a volunteer with the women's unit of United Hatzalah emergency service, administers a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to a woman at Clalit Health Services in Mevaseret Zion, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

JERUSALEM – An expert panel on Tuesday advised the Israeli government to begin offering a fourth vaccine dose to everyone over the age of 18, citing research showing it helps prevent COVID-19 infection and severe illness.

The advisory committee said research shows a fourth dose provides three to five times the level of protection against serious disease and double the protection against infection compared to three doses. The Health Ministry's director must approve the recommendation.

Israel is already offering a second booster to everyone over the age of 60 and those at high risk as it struggles to contain a wave of infections fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant. It began offering third doses to the general population last summer.

Figures from Israel's Health Ministry show there are currently some 580,000 active patients, with just 845 listed as seriously ill. Nearly half the population has received a third dose and more than 600,000 have gotten a fourth. Israel has reported 8,487 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Israel has been on the leading edge of vaccine distribution since they were approved by health authorities in late 2020. It has gathered extensive data that is informing other countries' responses to the pandemic.