JERUSALEM, Israel - Israel began giving booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine to individuals above the age of 60 on Friday.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced the decision on Thursday hours after meeting with health officials.
“The expert committee at the Ministry of Health of Israel officially approved the recommendation of giving a third booster dose of the COVID vaccine to Israeli citizens above the age of 60,” said Bennett.
“The decision was based on considerable research and analysis, as well as the rise in risk of the Delta variant wave. Israel has already vaccinated 2,000 immunosuppressed people with a third dose with no severe adverse events. And now we're rolling out a national third dose campaign. We will share all the information we have with the rest of the global community as we make progress,” he added.
Israel is the first country in the world to begin administering a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine. It comes against the backdrop of a sharp increase in cases from just a few dozen per day last month to more than 2,000 new daily cases this week.
Health experts are concerned the cases will continue to multiply and overwhelm the hospitals. Israel’s vaccination drive is open to citizens age 12 and above. The country has vaccinated 55% of its population.
Israel also partially reinstated the “Green Pass” system, limiting entry to venues containing more than 100 people to individuals who have been vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19, or those who present a negative test. This applies to restaurants, gyms, bars, houses of worship, hotels, tourists attractions, event halls, sporting events, and conferences.
The restrictions do not apply to malls, stores, swimming pools, national parks, libraries and nature reserves.
Children under 12 are exempt from the Green Pass system.
Businesses that don’t enforce the rules will face a $3,000 fine.