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Israel Testing Second Booster Shot as Way to Thwart Omicron

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

One-hundred-fifty health care workers at an Israeli hospital received a second COVID booster shot Monday in an experiment to see if the extra boost offers more protection against the Omicron variant.

Data from the test at Sheba Medical Centre near Tel Aviv will be submitted to the Israeli Health Ministry in about two weeks, a hospital spokesperson told Reuters. The health ministry will decide whether to approve a second booster for the general population.

The health ministry said Saturday that 1,118 confirmed Omicron cases have been detected so far, with 723 of those cases found in travelers returning from abroad. Israel has a population of about 9.4 million.

“There is high probability for 861 additional cases of exposure to the Omicron variant for whom genetic sequencing results have yet to be received,” the ministry said in a news release.

“The biggest question is, how significant is Omicron? It’s clear to all that it is very contagious. But whether it causes very severe illness – that’s the most significant question,” Gili Regev-Yochay, who is running the Sheba trial, told Reuters.

Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist who heads Israel’s Association of Public Health Physicians, said the testing is needed to determine if people become vulnerable to severe disease when the protection of one booster shot wears off.

“We can’t blindly assume that another shot will solve it all, because it won’t,” Levine told Reuters

The Israeli government has promoted vaccines in an effort to contain COVID-19 but demand for vaccines has leveled off, Reuters said. About 64% of the Israeli population has gotten two vaccine doses and 45% has gotten a booster shot.

Also on Monday, the Israeli Health Ministry shortened the recommended time between second and third doses to three months from five months, Reuters said. The move was made in an effort to slow down rising infections.

Sources:

Reuters: “Israeli hospital launches first test of second COVID-19 booster”

Israeli Health Ministry. “Today, 25/12/2021, 591 New Confirmed Cases of the Omicron Variant Detected in Israel”

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