Israel broadens eligibility for fourth shot of COVID vaccine

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A nurse prepares a fourth dose of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine as part of a trial in Israel, at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel December 27, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

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JERUSALEM, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Israel on Wednesday broadened eligibility for a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to include adults under 60 with underlying medical conditions, their caretakers, and others over 18 at significant risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

An official statement said the Health Ministry's director-general had approved the measure, which fell short of a recommendation on Tuesday by a ministry panel of experts to offer the so-called second booster shot to all adults.

No reason was given in the statement as to why a more restricted roll-out of a fourth dose of the Pfizer (PFE.N)/BioNTech (22UAy.DE) to people under 60 was approved.

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Earlier this month, as the Omicron variant swept the country, Israel began offering the fourth jab to people over 60, on condition that at least five months have passed since they received the third or recovered from COVID-19 infection.

Those newly eligible for the fourth shot can receive it if at least four months have passed since their third dose.

The ministry noted that an Israeli research study had found that people over 60 who received a fourth shot this month were three-to-five times as protected against serious illness and twice as protected against infection, compared to the thrice-vaccinated.

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Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Leslie Adler and Sandra Maler

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