The Israeli government has banned anyone without a Covid booster jab from entering indoor venues – meaning nearly two million people will lose their vaccine passport in the coming days.
Israel has become the first country in the world to make a booster shot a requirement for its digital vaccination pass, in a move widely seen as a step to encourage people to get a third dose.
Technical problems hamstrung the Health Ministry’s rollout of the updated green pass as millions of people tried to reissue digital documentation that would allow entry to shops, restaurants, cultural events and gyms.
Scores of Israelis staged demonstrations around the country in protest of the green pass system, with convoys of cars clogging morning commutes as many Israelis returned to work Sunday after September’s Jewish High Holidays.
Opponents of the system branded the move a form of forced vaccination.
‘We are totally against any forced vaccinations, or any forced medications, and we are totally against doing anything to our children and grandchildren that we don’t agree with,’ said Sarah Felt, who protested along the main road connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Israel raced out of the gate early this year to vaccinate most of its adult population after striking a deal with Pfizer to trade medical data in exchange for a steady supply of doses.
A man places a green flag on his car as he prepares to join a convoy of cars and protest against the Health Ministry’s ‘green pass’ restrictions, in Tel Aviv
A medical worker prepares a vial of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at Clalit Health Service’s center in the Cinema City complex in Jerusalem (stock image)
Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett addresses the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
This summer Israel launched an aggressive booster campaign to shore up waning vaccine efficacy in its population.
More than 60 per cent of Israel’s population has received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and nearly 3.5 million of its 9.3 million citizens have received a booster shot.
Recent months have seen a surge in new Covid cases in Israel. As of Sunday, more than 70 per cent of the 588 serious cases in Israeli hospitals involved unvaccinated individuals, according to the health ministry.
The ministry issued a statement on Sunday morning saying that because of heavy traffic on its green pass website and app, previously existing certificates will remain valid in the coming few days.
Data from Israel suggests a booster shot slashes the risk of infection by 11 times less and makes people up to 20 times less likely to need hospital care.
A convoy of cars slow down the traffic as they staged demonstration against the Health Ministry’s ‘green pass’ restrictions, on Ayalon highway, in Tel Aviv
People drive in a convoy to slow down the traffic on the highway by the entrance to Tel Aviv, as part of a protest against the government’s new policy
A major study published New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on September 15 found that over-60s given a third dose were 11.3 times less likely to become infected with Delta two weeks after the booster.
The research looked at more than 1.1million Israelis. It also found that people given a booster were 19.5 times less likely to be hospitalised with Covid than those who were still relying on protection from two doses.
Latest data from the country’s health ministry suggests that the booster programme is creating strong protection in the elderly.
The rate of severe Covid illness in over-60s is currently nine times higher among those who have had two vaccine doses compared to the triple-jabbed – on September 25 it was 36 per 100,000 in the two dose group compared to just four per 100,000 in the booster group. Among those who are completely unvaccinated, the rate was 170.
The results in Israel have not yet convinced the UK’s health officials to recommend a mass booster campaign for younger age groups.
Recent months have seen a surge in new Covid cases in Israel. As of Sunday, more than 70 per cent of the 588 serious cases in Israeli hospitals involved unvaccinated individuals, according to the health ministry
The percentage vaccinated by dose in each age group in Israel. Older groups, who are most vulnerable to the disease, have been most likely to accept a jab
Latest data from the country’s health ministry suggests that the booster programme is creating strong protection in the elderly. The rate of severe Covid illness in over-60s is currently nine times higher among those who have had two vaccine doses compared to the triple-jabbed — on September 25 it was 36 per 100,000 in the two dose group compared to just four per 100,000 in the booster group. Among those who are completely unvaccinated, the rate was 170
No10’s vaccine advisory panel, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, believes younger people had higher immunity from two doses because of the UK’s unique dosing strategy.
While Israel, the US and many other nations spaced the two doses three weeks apart, Britain extended this to three months.
At the time that decision was made, at the height of the second wave, it was to get more jabs in more arms in the hope that partial protection for many rather than full protection for some would drive down the epidemic.
Studies later showed that the wider gap generated stronger and longer lasting immunity.
Britons are only being invited to come forward for a booster if they had their second jab at least six months ago, which officials said was the ‘sweet spot’ for boosters.
Third doses will be rolled out to the top nine priority groups during the initial drive, with the elderly, medics and carers first in line again.
Doses of the Pfizer jab, or a half dose of Moderna, will be administered as boosters, regardless of which jab they initially received, because studies showed they were the most effective at topping up immunity.
For those who cannot get either of those two mRNA jabs, such as due to an allergy, they will be given a dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. A half dose of Moderna has been chosen because it was found to have fewer side effects but similar efficacy.
The UK also started vaccinating healthy 12 to 15-year-olds for the first time last week with the hope of keeping the epidemic at bay and preventing school closures this winter. They are being offered a single dose of Pfizer for now.
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