Jerusalem: In a bid to curb Covid infections in the country, on Thursday, Israel’s prime minister said the country will offer a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine shot to people over the age of 60 years starting Sunday.Also Read - Sikkim Travel Guide - 5 Best Tourist Attractions to Explore

This announcement by Naftali Bennett makes Israel the first country to offer a third dose of Covid vaccine to its citizens on a wide scale. Isn’t that incredible? This year, Israel had launched one of the world’s most successful vaccination drives in the country. Also Read - Travelling to Ireland From India? Check Latest Covid Rules

“I’m announcing this evening the beginning of the campaign to receive the booster vaccine, the third vaccine,” Bennett said in a nationally televised address. “Reality proves the vaccines are safe. Reality also proves the vaccines protect against severe morbidity and death. And like the flu vaccine that needs to be renewed from time to time, it is the same in this case.” Also Read - Delhi Unlock Guidelines: Marriage Parties Allowed With 100 People | What’s Allowed, What’s Not

The decision comes at a time of rising infections and signs that the vaccine’s efficacy dwindles over time.

Third Covid Vaccine Shot to Older People Above 60 Years of Age

Anyone over 60 years of age who was vaccinated more than five months ago will be eligible. Bennett said the country’s new president, Isaac Herzog, would be the first to get the booster on Friday. It will also be offered to the general public.

Bennett, who is 49, said his first call after the news conference would be to his mother to encourage her to get her booster shot.

Neither the U.S. nor the EU have approved coronavirus booster shots. It’s not yet proven if a third dose helps and, if so, who needs one and when.

But Bennett said that a team of expert advisers had agreed overwhelmingly, by a 56-1 margin, that it made sense to launch the booster campaign. He said the recommendation was made after “considerable research and analysis” and that its information would be shared around the world. Preliminary studies in Israel have indicated the vaccine’s protection against serious illness dropped among those vaccinated in January.

“The findings show that there is a decline in the body’s immunity over time, and the purpose of the booster is to re-strengthen it, thus significantly reducing the chances of infection and serious illness,” Bennett said.

Israel has used the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine on its population. Previously, boosters were used in some countries with the Chinese and Russian vaccines.

Early this year, Israel carried out one of the world’s most aggressive and successful vaccination campaigns, reaching a deal with Pfizer to purchase enough vaccines for its population in exchange for sharing its data with the drug maker.

Over 57% of the country’s 9.3 million citizens have received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and over 80% of the population over 40 is vaccinated.

Vaccine maker Pfizer on Wednesday highlighted the need for administering an additional dose to ensure high protection against Covid-19. Pfizer also said that it will apply for US emergency authorisation for booster shots within August.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) said earlier this month that there is not enough evidence to show that a third dose is needed.

The Israeli Health Ministry recorded at least 2,165 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, following an accelerating rise in infections over the past month. Serious cases of COVID-19 have grown from 19 a day in mid-June to 159 as the highly infectious delta variant has spread.

Earlier this month, Israel started giving individuals with weakened immune systems a third shot to increase their resilience against COVID-19.

(With inputs from AP)