The Health Ministry announced on Thursday that newly updated COVID-19 vaccines will soon be available in Israel.
The vaccines, recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, are expected to be in stock at Israel’s four health maintenance organizations by early October.
Initially, only those aged 12 and up with preexisting medical conditions or weakened immune systems will be eligible for the shot. Once the supply is increased, it will be available to any individual aged 6 months or older.
The vaccine, manufactured by Moderna, targets the XBB sub-variants of Omicron. Studies, however, have shown that the vaccine also provides protection against the other predominant Omicron sub-variants EG.5 (Eris) and BA.2.86 (Pirola).
The booster shots will arrive in Israel as a result of an increase in COVID cases since the summer.
“At this moment, there is a moderate escalation in the number of hospitalized patients [due to COVID]. Most of them are only lightly ill, but there has been a moderate increase in the number of seriously ill patients, and also an increase in death due to the virus,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.
The latest data on the ministry’s website is from September 18 and indicates that as of that date, there were 231 lightly ill COVID patients in hospitals, 23 in moderate condition, and 53 in serious condition. There were no numbers given for deaths.
It is impossible to know how many people in the country overall are currently sick with COVID, as there are no more requirements for testing, reporting, or isolation.
Before Rosh Hashanah, the Health Ministry recommended that people — especially the immunocompromised — wear masks in crowded indoor spaces and do home COVID tests if they feel unwell.
In its statement about the COVID boosters, the Health Ministry urged the population to also get flu shots this fall to mitigate what the medical community anticipates will be a difficult “flurona” (combined flu and COVID) season that would put pressure on the healthcare system.
The new COVID booster shots can be received regardless of which and how many of the previous COVID vaccinations a person has gotten since the beginning of the pandemic. COVID boosters can also be received at the same time as a flu shot.
A person can also get the COVID booster at the same time or shortly before or after getting other vaccinations, except for the shot against mpox (formerly called monkey pox).
“A separation of at least four weeks is recommended between the new COVID vaccine and the mpox vaccine, especially for teenagers and young men,” the Health Ministry said.
The ministry also said that the COVID booster is safe for pregnant women to receive at any point in their pregnancy. It also urged expectant mothers to get other vaccines, such as for flu and whooping cough, to protect their health and the health of their fetuses. The COVID shot is also recommended for breastfeeding mothers and women considering conceiving a child.