A third dose of the vaccine provides significant protection, but that should not mean those who are unvaccinated go without
- David O’Connor is professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Wisconsin
In the summer, Israel began offering third doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to the over-60s. It was the first country to start administering “booster shots”, to people vaccinated at least five months previously. The prime minister, Naftali Bennett, announced the decision after a study by Leumit Health Services, an Israeli healthcare provider, showed that those over the age of 60 who had been vaccinated more than five months previously were three times more likely to be infected than those vaccinated more recently. As of 29 August, Israel began offering a third dose to everyone aged 12 and older, who had waited this period of time. The question for other countries is now whether to follow Israel’s lead.
The first data evaluating the early impact of the third dose programme were published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). It showed that two weeks after more than 1.1 million over-60s had received their third dose, they were 11.3 times less likely to become infected with the exceptionally contagious Delta variant that currently predominates in Israel and across the world.