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Israel will offer Pfizer’s updated COVID-19 booster shots designed to combat Omicron BA.4/5 subvariants by the end of September, a senior health official said Wednesday.
Israel’s coronavirus task force chief Salman Zarka has urged members of at-risk groups to take the booster with a flu shot, though anyone over the age of 12 and at least three months after a previous vaccine or COVID-19 disease is eligible.
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“We have been preparing for winter for some time and are considering the possibility of two waves of illness in the country, influenza and coronavirus, two waves that we have seen elsewhere in the world,” Zarka told reporters.
About half of Israel’s 9.4 million people have already received three doses of the vaccine, and about 850,000 people have received four, according to Health Ministry data. Over 4.5 million cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Israel since the start of the pandemic, with 11,667 deaths recorded.
Pfizer/BioNtech’s so-called bivalent vaccine targets the currently circulating BA.4/5 as well as the strain of the virus that first emerged in China in December 2019.
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While the existing coronavirus vaccines used so far offered good protection against hospitalization and death, their effectiveness, especially against infection, has been reduced as the virus has evolved.