Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Sunday that Israel would begin offering a fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to people over 60 and to medical staff amid the surge in omicron variant cases. The country has approved a fourth dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those who are immunocompromised or are elderly residing in care homes.

“We now have a new layer of defense,” Bennett said. “Israel will once again be pioneering the global vaccination effort.”

The omicron variant has caused global infections to reach new heights. Reuters data showed that on average, over a million cases were reported each day between Dec. 24 and 30. However, the death roll has not risen at the same rate. This bolsters hopes that the omicron variant, though more transmissible, is not as deadly. Bennett echoed this view when he explained the use of the fourth shot as a way to protect serious illness among the immunocompromised.

Director-General of Israel’s Health Ministry, Nachman Ash, has said that he believes Israel could eventually reach herd immunity, as the seemingly less-lethal omicron cases surge and the Merck & Co anti-viral pill has been approved for Covid-19 patients over 18. Herd immunity refers to the protection a population can achieve from a virus when enough individuals have been vaccinated or have developed antibodies after their own illness.

“The [infection] numbers will have to be very high in order to reach herd immunity,” Ash explained. He added that waiting for most of the population to become ill is certainly not the goal. He said that herd immunity “is possible, but we don’t want to reach it by means of infections. We want it to happen as a result of many people vaccinating.”

The country’s Health Ministry reports that approximately 60% of its 9.4 million population is fully vaccinated. Almost all of these vaccinated individuals deceived the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. However, hundreds of thousands of people eligible for a third inoculation have not gotten it yet.

In the last 10 days, daily infections have more than quadrupled. Severe cases have also risen, but at a much lower rate.

Within the next three weeks, daily cases in Israel are anticipated to break new records highs. Bennett said that soon, as many as 50,000 people might become infected each day. At the same time, testing eligibility could be reduced in order to stop testing stations from being overwhelmed.

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