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Israeli health provider to offer third COVID shot to elderly

Franco Avraham who had a kidney transplant receives his third dose of COVID-19 vaccine at Sheba Medical Center on July 14 in Ramat Gan, Israel. This week the country started offering third doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to adults with weak immune systems, due to concern about the more virulent Delta variant.
Franco Avraham who had a kidney transplant receives his third dose of COVID-19 vaccine at Sheba Medical Center on July 14 in Ramat Gan, Israel. This week the country started offering third doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to adults with weak immune systems, due to concern about the more virulent Delta variant.Amir Levy/Getty

JERUSALEM (AP) — A leading Israeli health provider on Thursday said it would soon begin offering a third, booster COVID-19 shot to patients over the age of 60 who have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Maccabi, one of Israel's four publicly funded health maintenance organizations, said its members could already register and the vaccinations would start on Sunday.

The announcement came shortly ahead of a nationally televised news conference by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who is expected to unveil a nationwide booster shot program. It would make Israel among the first countries to launch a widespread campaign offering its vaccinated citizens a third dose.

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Early this year, Israel carried out one of the world's most aggressive and successful vaccination campaigns. Over 57% of the country’s 9.3 million citizens have received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and over 80% of the population over 40 is vaccinated.

The vaccination program allowed Israel to reopen its economy ahead of other countries. But there are signs that the vaccine's efficacy wears off over time, and Israel has seen a spike in cases of the new delta variant, even among people who are vaccinated.

People over the age of 60 who were vaccinated more than five months ago will be eligible for the booster, Maccabi said.