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Should Israel give a third coronavirus vaccine to people as young as 40?

CM 12/08/2021

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On Thursday night the committee advising the Health Ministry on matters related to the coronavirus vaccine was set to issue a recommendation on whether to expand the possibility of receiving a coronavirus vaccine to individuals as young as 40.
Earlier in the day, speaking in a press briefing the ministry’s Director General Prof. Nachman Ash said that they will consider whether to suggest just lowering the age of inoculation or focusing on specific groups.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, two experts explained the intricacies behind such a decision and what makes it more difficult than the choice to inoculate people over 60.
“The issue is very complex,” Prof. Cyrille Cohen, head of the immunotherapy laboratory at Bar-Ilan University said. “For people over the age of 60 it was much easier to decide because we know that they are the ones who are more inclined to develop more serious symptoms and die. Younger people are getting sick, but the majority of serious patients are above the age of 60, so I do not know to what extent it could help giving a third dose to 40 years old because they usually do not end up in hospitals.”
“I would give the priority to health care workers since they are highly exposed and a long time has passed since they were vaccinated,” said Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, an epidemiologist and the director of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s School of Public Health. “I think that these elements are more important to consider than biological age.”
Both Cohen and Davidovitch suggested that a booster should be given to people under 60 in case of pre-existing conditions.
“After these groups, maybe the next step could be to vaccinate people over the age of 50, as we did with the first vaccines, and also to follow up the results closely with serological tests and epidemiological analysis,” Davidovitch noted.
According to Cohen, a problem in considering a booster for people who are not so much at risk from the disease itself is also the lack of data about both the safety and the efficacy of the jab.
“We do not have any results regarding the efficacy and the safety of the third dose,” he said. “We do know that for individuals who are 60 and older, who tend to have less side effects, 88% of them did not show more severe effects than after the first and the second vaccine, based on a study by the health fund Clalit. However, I think it is a bit premature to say the same for people under 60.”
Cohen said that it is not clear what the purpose of such a decision would be.
“If the idea is to protect people, they need to show that the booster is safe, if it is to prevent the spreading of the disease, again we are not sure if it would work considering that the Delta variant is very contagious,” he remarked.
Israel started to vaccinate immunosuppressed patients on July 12 and people over 60 two weeks ago. On Thursday night the committee was set to discuss some preliminary results.
Over 750,000 people had been inoculated as of Thursday night.
Davidovitch said that it appears that the booster is not provoking more side effects than the first or second dose and noted that several other countries have started to consider it.
“I believe soon many countries will begin administering a third shot,” he concluded. “Of course we should remember that the first dose remains the most important. The third one offers some additional coverage, but it is still not clear how much.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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