Israel doing world a 'great service' with Covid booster shots: PM

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says giving the over 60 a Covid booster shot despite a plea by WHO for a moratorium does not affect global surplus
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Thursday that Israel was doing the world a "great service" by administering Covid vaccine booster shots, despite the World Health Organization's plea for a moratorium.

Nearly 60 percent of Israel's 9.3 million people have had two jabs, mostly of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, with the government recently rolling out a third shot for the over-60s.

The WHO has called for a moratorium on booster shots until at least the end of September in order to address inequalities in global dose distribution.

When asked by AFP about the WHO's position, Bennett said that Israel was doing the world a service in testing the shot on its population.

"Israel is going ahead here with something that dramatically contributes to global knowledge," he said in a Facebook broadcast.

Stressing Israel's relatively small population that "doesn't significantly affect the global surplus", he said that the knowledge accumulated in the process would be "immediately shared with the entire world".

"Without us, the world wouldn't know the exact efficacy levels of the booster shots, wouldn't know the dates, how much they affect infections, how they affect severe illness," he said.

"In these aspects, we're doing the world a great service, and the world is very happy that we're taking the responsibility and lead on this matter," Bennett said.

-'Firing Delta variants'-

His remarks were part of a campaign to encourage some one million unvaccinated younger Israelis to get the jab, and for older people to receive the "great gift" of a booster shot.

"It's as if you're walking around with an automatic rifle firing Delta variants at people," he said of unvaccinated Israelis, warning of a lockdown that could affect the Jewish High Holidays next month if inoculation rates failed to rise.

Since Sunday, Israel has been recording an average of more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases a day, with 250 people in serious condition -- the highest since April.

The rise in infections is a step back after its world-leading vaccine campaign drove down new Covid-19 cases from 10,000 a day to fewer than 100.

More than 250,000 Israelis over the age 60, or over 20 percent of those currently eligible, had received a booster shot by Wednesday, the health ministry said.

On of them was Shoshana, a 75-year-old resident of Jerusalem, who said that advanced age brings with it a more developed sense of responsibility.

"Older people feel more empathy to others because of their life experiences and age," she told AFP.

"They also care for grandchildren and friends, so the vaccination is not only for them but also for those who are close and dear to them."

Shoshana, who received her booster shot Thursday afternoon, said that the elderly were more vulnerable to Covid, and with the million of younger people in Israel not vaccinated, "it's up to us to keep ourselves safe".

Israel had lifted most Covid restrictions in early June, but began reimposing some of them last month following the resurgence of cases.

From Sunday, unvaccinated people will be required to present a negative Covid test of less than 24 hours, the health ministry said Thursday, adding that health passes would be extended to children under 12 from August 20.

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