Are Covid-19 Booster Shots Helpful? Here's What Israel's Study Says
As per the findings published by Israel's health ministry, the protection against the SARS-CoV-2 infection 10 days after a third dose was four times stronger than after two doses.
As the United States and a few other countries have announced plans to give additional doses to the citizens amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, data from Israel shows that a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine significantly improved immunity and offered protection from serious illness among people aged 60 and above.
According to findings published by Israel's health ministry on 22 August, the protection against the SARS-CoV-2 infection provided 10 days after a third dose was four times stronger than after two doses. It was also found that the third vaccination, given to people over the age of 60, provided five to six times more protection against serious sickness and hospitalisation after 10 days.
This particular age group is vulnerable to Covid-19, and when the vaccination campaign began in late December in Israel, these people were first to receive the vaccine.
The details of the findings were presented at a meeting of a ministry panel of immunisation specialists on 19 August and posted to the ministry's website on 22 August. However, the complete study details are yet to be made public.
According to separate research released last week by one of several organisations that provide booster shots, Tel Aviv-based Maccabi Health Services, the third dose lowered the chance of infection by 86 per cent and the risk of serious infection by 92 per cent in people aged 60 and over. Maccabi's conclusions are based on real-world data from a huge group of people.
On 30 July, Israel began delivering third vaccinations to anyone above the age of 60. Last week, it lowered the age of eligibility for a booster to 40, allowing pregnant women, teachers and healthcare employees under that age to apply. Only individuals who have had their second shot at least five months ago are offered the third dose.
In a news release, the ministry said: "Those aged 40 and older may contact their HMO to schedule an appointment for the third vaccine dose."
The United States has declared plans to provide booster shots to all Americans, citing evidence that shows protection is eroding, while other countries like Canada, France and Germany have also begun booster initiatives.
Meanwhile, scientists in the United Kingdom are investigating whether smaller doses of the Covid vaccine could be used as part of booster programmes, with the intention of increasing vaccine availability around the world.
This idea was proposed to ensure that limited vaccine supplies can immunise as many people as feasible in areas where vaccine supplies are scarce, while still providing high levels of virus protection. The notion has sparked the interest of several members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), which advises the British government.
As reported, the JCVI is expected to rule out an immediate booster vaccine programme for all adults while more research is conducted. But the government of the United Kingdom plans to proceed with follow-up vaccinations for those most at risk and in need of a boost in immunity. It's possible that this will begin as soon as next month.
In India, the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) director Dr Randeep Guleria said on 21 August that India now lacks sufficient data to determine if a booster dose against Covid-19 is required to improve protection against the virus, but additional information is expected to be available by early next year.
Dr Guleria stated that "even for elderly and high-risk groups, we do not have enough data. We really need to have data that gives us an idea of the protection levels the vaccines provide. Information is still emerging... it will take some more months. Possibly by the beginning of next year, we will have data on what will be the type of booster shots and who needs it."
Additionally, he said: "Globally, wae are seeing that people who have been vaccinated continue to have protection from severe disease and they are not seeing a huge surge in people getting admitted to hospitals... in India too."
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