Israel launches new COVID-19 vaccines tailored for Omicron

TEL AVIV – Israel on Thursday began administering doses of coronavirus vaccines tailored to combat the highly infectious Omicron variant, as its public health officials urged high-risk groups and those over 65 to get the shot.

The launch of the new vaccine follows Israel’s world-leading bid to vaccinate its population in early 2021. Health authorities are now expressing growing concerns about the increase in COVID-19 infections in the coming winter.

Arsen Arutiunian, an official at Israeli healthcare provider Clalit, said there has been “great demand” for the booster since the new campaign began. He said the clinic was inundated with calls from people of all ages wanting to make an appointment.

“I have received all previous vaccinations. So far, touch wood, I haven’t caught it yet, although my whole family has kind of Teflon me. And as they say, stay healthy,” said Eytan Gurfinkel, a Tel Aviv resident.

As of Thursday, 95 people were hospitalized with severe cases of coronavirus – the lowest level since May. According to Health Ministry statistics, over 11,600 Israelis have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began in early 2020.

Israel led the world in vaccinating its 9.5 million residents against the coronavirus last year after it struck a deal with Pfizer to trade vaccines for medical records. It quickly vaccinated over 60% of its population with at least two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by last fall.

Over 4.5 million Israelis have received a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, but just over 800,000 have taken a fourth shot.

In August, the FDA approved updated COVID boosters targeting the Omicron strain and US health officials are beginning rollout this fall.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Israel launches new COVID-19 vaccines tailored for Omicron

Sarah Y. Kim

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