The Health Ministry’s coronavirus vaccination committee voted Wednesday night to administer a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine to elderly people who are more susceptible to developing serious disease.

An absolute majority of the committee members who attended the meeting that ran from 9 p.m. to midnight said they believed this was the right decision for Israel’s adult population, despite a third jab still not being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had alluded that the country was heading in this direction earlier in the week when he said during a visit to a senior living facility that “We’re on top of it, believe me… We’re very close. The less we talk about it, the greater chance it’ll happen. I’m on it.”

The committee was divided on at which age people should get the extra shot, with opinions ranging from people as young as 60 to giving it only to people 70 and older. As such, the decision to move forward has been handed to Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash who will make a determination in the coming days.

The move comes one day after Pfizer told its investors in a presentation that their research shows that a third dose of the vaccine increased antibodies in those who received it by five to 11 times. The company said it hopes to apply for emergency use approval of the extra shot sometimes in August.

The Delta variant has been quickly spreading across Israel. While the majority of new cases are younger people, among them unvaccinated children, the country is starting to see more and more elderly who were vaccinated five and six months ago get infected. Preliminary research by the Health Ministry showed that the Pfizer vaccine was only 16% effective against the Delta variant in people vaccinated so long ago.

Moreover, it is estimated that for people 60 and older, the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing serious illness has dropped from 97% to 81%.

“Eighty-one percent is still effective, but the gap is dramatic,” tweeted Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science on Thursday morning. “Because if previously the chance of a vaccinated person aged 60+ getting seriously ill was 3%, now it is 19%, which means six times more.”

There were 2,269 people who were diagnosed with the virus on Tuesday, the Health Ministry reported Wednesday night – 2.39% of those screened tested positive. There were 149 patients in serious condition.

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