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Study in Israel Shows Fivefold Boost in Antibodies After 4th Vaccine

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appeared to spill the beans earlier this week when he visited Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer to see how it has prepared for additional hospitalizations due to the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

During Bennett’s visit, he was briefed by Infection Prevention and Control Unit Director Prof. Gili Regev-Yohai on the preliminary results of a research study being carried out at the hospital regarding a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

“I am now pleased to announce, together with Prof. [and hospital Director-General Yitshak] Kreiss and Prof. Regev, who are conducting the study, that the initial study regarding the fourth dose shows that within about a week of receiving it, there is an almost fivefold increase in the number of antibodies in the blood. Apparently, this will demonstrate a much higher level of protection than without the fourth dose, both in relation to infection and the spread of the virus and in relation to severe morbidity. In simple Hebrew, the fourth vaccine is safe. That’s for sure. The fourth vaccine, very likely, works,” Bennett said in a statement following his visit.

The study also found that the fourth dose appears to be safe, with the same mild side effects reported in the previous booster shot.

“The fourth dose is safe and the fourth dose works,” Bennett said.

The trial for the study, which was widely reported on Wednesday, began on December 27, when 150 Sheba medical personnel whose antibody levels had dropped to lower levels four to five months after their third shot were injected with a fourth dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Another group of 150 medical personnel will receive a fourth vaccine shot using the Moderna vaccine next week, according to Sheba.

Israel is the first country to begin to offer a fourth shot of the coronavirus vaccine, announcing at the beginning of the week that it would provide the second booster shot for people over the age of 60, immunocompromised people and health care workers. Bennett announced that in the first two days following the announcement of the fourth shot over 100,000 Israelis had either registered to receive the vaccine or had been vaccinated.

“The wave now is really increasing, and we expect to have tens of thousands of verified cases already in the next few days. The good news is that the vaccines work, so anyone who gets vaccinated and properly wears a mask will probably not get seriously ill, and it will pass in a few days. Therefore, it is in our hands,” Bennett also said.

He added that the government of Israel is “doing everything in our power to meet our goal of maintaining the routine of the Israeli economy as much as possible while protecting our society’s most vulnerable.”

Bennett and his wife are not old enough to receive the fourth vaccine dose, but on Wednesday, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal, launched the fourth COVID-19 vaccination campaign at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem by first getting their vaccinations.

Herzog addressed citizens of Israel in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, saying, “Omicron is spreading throughout Israel and may reach every house in Israel. There is no other choice – go out and get vaccinated!”

Israel’s Health Ministry announced Thursday that, starting at midnight between Thursday and Friday, Israel would allow its citizens to travel to any country, and that from Sunday, vaccinated visitors would be permitted to enter Israel.

The booster may soon have to protect against another variant of the coronavirus. A new variant was discovered in southern France that has 46 new mutations and 37 deletions, according to a study funded by the French government that has not yet been peer-reviewed. The variant is believed to have originated in Cameroon. Twelve patients in France have been found to be sick with the virus variant. The variant has been named B.1.640.2. It is not known yet how spreadable or lethal the new variant will be.

Meanwhile, countries around the world are reporting record-high numbers of new coronavirus infections, attributed mostly to the omicron variant. Israel on Wednesday logged its highest daily rise in COVID-19 infections with 16,796 new cases diagnosed and an infection rate of 7.89%. Turkey recorded 66,467 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon, the highest daily figure on record, according to its Health Ministry, as cases in Turkey have more than doubled in the last week.

The United States on Tuesday reported nearly 1 million new coronavirus infections, setting a global record, and its number of cases is up 98% compared to last week.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 3:40 pm Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.

 

CountryConfirmed CasesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Afghanistan158,2757,367145,7505,158
Algeria220,4156,310151,34762,758
Bahrain286,5291,395278,4246,710
Cyprus188,380650124,37063,360
Djibouti13,83918913,439211
Egypt389,45421,863323,91343,678
Iran6,203,046131,8026,047,52823,716
Iraq2,095,84824,1942,066,7134,941
Israel1,440,7718,2531,359,98172,537
Jordan1,071,83712,7911,032,92326,123
Kuwait423,0422,469412,4858,088
Lebanon746,6329,213670,41267,007
Libya392,2765,767379,1117,398
Mauritania44,64687639,4494,321
Morocco977,57914,872944,55518,152
Oman306,7554,117300,6661,972
Pakistan1,299,84828,9551,257,84713,046
Palestinian Territories441,2244,698433,1303,396
Qatar260,283618246,78412,881
Saudi Arabia568,6508,888544,16115,601
Somalia24,2611,33513,1829,744
Sudan47,2723,34038,7145,218
Syria50,4172,91533,12014,382
Tunisia733,37925,617697,53710,225
Turkey9,718,86183,0759,192,167443,619
United Arab Emirates777,5842,170750,15625,258
Yemen10,1461,9857,0411,120
Total28,891,249415,72427,504,905970,620

 

Steven Ganot contributed to this report.