JERUSALEM — Israeli officials said Tuesday that the country will administer a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, in a bid to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
Israel is believed to be the first country to offer a fourth round of doses.
Naftali Bennett, the Israeli prime minister, said medical teams would begin to give fourth doses to those over 60, as well as to medical personnel, in a decision he hailed as “wonderful news that will assist us in getting through the Omicron wave that is engulfing the world.”
Mr. Bennett added: “The State of Israel is continuing to stand at the forefront of the global effort to deal with the pandemic.”
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in October that some adults with compromised immune systems would be eligible for a fourth shot of the mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, said this month that fourth doses of his company’s vaccine may soon be needed to deal with the Omicron variant, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, has disagreed.
In Israel, at least one person has been confirmed to have died from the Omicron variant — an elderly man who had received two vaccine doses, but not a third one, health officials said Tuesday. The number of Omicron cases doubled on Tuesday to 340, the health ministry said, while the total number of coronavirus cases rose to 1,306 — the highest daily figure in nearly two months, but still proportionally lower than many developed countries.
Israel was an early trailblazer in its efforts to administer a first vaccine to citizens late last year, initially rolling out a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine far faster than most other countries. It was subsequently also one of the first countries to return society to a semblance of normality. After succeeding Benjamin Netanyahu in June, Mr. Bennett was among the first world leaders to permit the administering of a third dose of the vaccine last summer.
Mr. Bennett also allowed for the vaccination of young children aged five and up, and held a “war game” in November in which the government tested out possible state responses to a hypothetical new virus variant.
Attempting to slow the rise of Omicron in Israel, Mr. Bennett also recently enforced more stringent entry requirements for incoming travelers, banning the entry of all foreigners without a special exemption, and barring Israelis from traveling without special permission to 58 countries, including the United States, Canada and Britain.
Mr. Bennett has said Israel is at the beginning of a fifth virus wave, and has called on citizens to vaccinate themselves and their children, to work from home and to increase their wearing of masks.