Israel is considering giving a third shot of the Pfizer (PFE.N)/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to its elderly population even before FDA approval in order to help fend off the Delta coronavirus variant, a health official said on Monday.
US and European Union authorities are considering whether booster shots are needed for specific risk groups.
“This is the big dilemma. The decision is on our shoulders when we don’t have the world’s backing. It is a very complex decision,” Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash told a health conference hosted by news website Ynet.
“On the one hand we want to see that it is safe and effective and to rely on our data examining whether there really is waning immunity, and on the other hand there is an outbreak and we want to stop this outbreak.”
“We expect to publish more definitive data about our booster program and all accumulated data will be shared as part of the ongoing discussions with the FDA, EMA and other regulatory authorities in the coming weeks,” Pfizer spokesperson Jerica Pitts said in an emailed statement.
Since the Delta variant began spreading in Israel in June, the health ministry has twice reported a drop in the vaccine’s effectiveness against infection and a slight decrease in its protection against severe disease.
Some experts have criticised the ministry’s analysis because of possible bias that could be skewing the data. Last week, it estimated the vaccine was only 41 per cent effective at halting symptomatic infections over the past month. Protection against severe disease remained strong at 91 per cent.
A decision should be made in the coming weeks, Ash said, and it would likely affect people either 60- or 70-years-old and up, the high-risk group first to get the jab when Israel began its vaccination drive in December.
Some experts said Israel should wait a little longer to receive more information about safety and effectiveness of a third shot. Authorities were better advised to get the vaccine to those who have not been inoculated yet at all, said Nadav Davidovitch, director of Ben Gurion University’s School of Public Health.