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Israel starts to offer COVID-19 booster doses to vulnerable people

Health officials in the U.S. will meet Monday to discuss booster dose authorization

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Health officials in Israel announced on Sunday that adults with weakened immune systems will be able to get a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Reuters reported. People will be eligible for booster shots if they have already received two doses of the company’s vaccine and they are considered to have impaired immune systems. 

Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech said a small study in the country showed a decline in the vaccine’s effectiveness. The drop in effectiveness was primarily seen among those who had been vaccinated in January or February.

“As seen in real world evidence released from the Israel Ministry of Health, vaccine efficacy has declined six months post-vaccination, at the same time that the Delta variant is becoming the dominant variant in the country,” the companies said in a written statement.

Israel is still considering whether to open up booster shots to its general public. Despite nearly 60% of its population being fully vaccinated, the country has been registering more than 450 cases each day on average over the last month. Officials attribute the rise to circulation of the highly contagious Delta variant. 

U.S. officials say it’s still too early

Officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a joint statement last week saying fully vaccinated Americans do not need a booster shot at this time. 

"We continue to review any new data as it becomes available and will keep the public informed,” the companies said. “We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.” 

For now, the agencies said Americans who are fully vaccinated are “protected from severe disease and death, including from the variants currently circulating in the country such as Delta.” Pfizer is set to meet with top U.S. health officials on Monday to discuss booster dose authorization. 

Over the weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci said "it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely" that a booster will be needed. However, he said it’s still too early for federal officials to make that call based on current data. 

“Right now, given the data and the information we have, we do not need to give people a third shot,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we stop there. ... There are studies being done now ongoing as we speak about looking at the feasibility about if and when we should be boosting people."

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