Israel offers lesson in boosters as British Covid-19 cases surge

ISRAEL (BLOOMBERG) – As Covid-19 cases soar again in Britain, officials could look to a country that’s moved past a similar crisis for a possible road map. The search for answers in Israel may be useful, health experts say, because both countries were among the fastest in the world with their vaccination programmes, yet were similarly quick to lift lockdown restrictions. And just as Israel experienced a spike in cases in June, so Britain is now, having just reported the biggest single daily jump in infections in three months.

Israel’s response to its renewed outbreak was to roll out an aggressive booster programme, a decision that appears to have quelled the worst of the outbreak within weeks. And while there are too many other variables to draw hard-and-fast conclusions – from vaccine type and timings to age-group prioritising, social-distancing rules and mask-wearing – it may offer one stand-out lesson for Britain: People should get their boosters.

“Israel was the first country to have a mass vaccination campaign and it was the first to experience the full impact of waning immunity” and the mass susceptibility that followed, said Ran Balicer, the Tel Aviv-based chairman of Israel’s national Covid-19 advisory team.

Other countries that vaccinated later will go through the same thing, “unless they use the lessons learned here and consider the booster campaign”, he said.

Britain has a booster programme that began in late September. It’s open to people 50 and older, and is focusing on the elderly in that age group, as well as other vulnerable people.

In Israel, the rollout extended to people 12 and above within weeks of its Aug 1 launch.

The surge in infections in Britain has left the country behind other major European nations, in terms of both case rate and deaths, according to Bloomberg’s tracker.

“We’re starting to see indications that hospitalisations and death rates are increasing,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman, Max Blain, told reporters on Tuesday.

“Clearly we are keeping a very close eye on rising case rates. The most important message for the public to understand is the vital importance of the booster programme.”

In Israel, serious coronavirus cases continue to drop now that almost 3.9 million people out of an eligible 5.2 million have received a third dose.

“It’s possible to say, cautiously, that we are quelling the fourth wave, the Delta wave, but it’s not over until it’s over,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday.

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