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Israel Makes COVID Booster Shot Mandatory
A health care worker administers a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at the Clalit Health Service in the Negev's main Bedouin town of Rahat, Aug. 17, 2021. (Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel Makes COVID Booster Shot Mandatory

With more than 40% of the population having already taken the third jab, Israel leads the world in coronavirus booster coverage

Israel today started enforcing the requirement that citizens display the country’s new Green Pass to obtain access to restaurants, gyms, and many other indoor venues and events. This follows the country becoming, on Sunday, the first in the world to require that citizens who have not recently recovered from COVID-19 take a third dose of the vaccine as a condition for Green Pass eligibility. The old Green Passes, which citizens could obtain after receiving two doses of the vaccine, are no longer valid.

As a result of the change, about 2 million Israelis – those who have had two doses of the vaccine but not the booster shot – lost their Green Passes this week.

According to a decision of the Corona Cabinet, municipal library patrons are exempt from the Green Pass requirement, as are schoolchildren on organized trips to museums.

In July, the Israeli Health Ministry began recommending that those with elevated risk for severe COVID-19 infection, such as people over 60 years old, those with compromised immune systems, and health care workers, get the Pfizer/BioNtech booster shot. By the end of August, the booster shot was available to anyone above the age of 12.

Other countries are closely following the Israeli booster shot campaign, and will set their own policies after seeing how effective the booster is in the Jewish state.

Early indications are very positive.

A study published on September 15 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Israelis aged 60 and up who had received the booster were much less likely to test positive for COVID-19 or to develop a severe case of the disease than were those who had just two doses of the vaccine. Twelve or more days after receiving the booster shot, study participants were about 19.5 times less likely to contract severe COVID-19 than their peers who did not get the booster.

More good news: The Health Ministry reported last Thursday that of 1.5 million people studied who received the booster, only nine developed myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that some experts predicted could be a side-effect of the booster shot. And of the more than 3 million Israelis who were administered the third dose, only 25 reported serious adverse effects within 30 days of inoculation. In many cases, no causal link between the booster and the adverse condition was established.

As of October 5, 3.63 million Israelis – 41.35% of the population – had received the booster shot. This was the highest percentage in the world; in second place, 28.84% of people in Uruguay had taken the third jab. In the United States, only 1.79% of people had been administered COVID-19 booster shots.

The World Health Organization has criticized wealthy countries for offering booster shots to healthy citizens while many in the developing world have not been given access even to the first two vaccine doses. “There are countries with less than 2% vaccination coverage, most of them in Africa, who are not even getting their first and second dose” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference in September. “And starting with boosters, especially giving it to healthy populations, is really not right.” The WHO supports third doses for the elderly and immune-compromised.

Currently, 34.4% of the world’s population, but only 4.57% of Africans, have had two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Only 0.44% of the world’s population has had the third jab.

Among countries and regions in the Middle East and North Africa, Israel was followed by Turkey, which by October 5 had vaccinated 13.42% of its population with the booster; Northern Cyprus (10.7% as of September 26), Cyprus (1.7% as of October 5) and the Palestinian territories (0.04% as of October 3). The booster shot isn’t yet available anywhere else in the MENA region.

In the absolute number of booster doses administered, Turkey leads the world, with 11.41 million doses, followed by the United States (6.01 million) and Israel (3.63 million).

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 12:20 am Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.


CountryConfirmed CasesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Palestinian Territories410,5804,188384,08022,312
Saudi Arabia547,4028,732536,4472,223
United Arab Emirates737,2292,107730,3094,813



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