“Now is a critical time,” Israeli Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz said as the 56-year-old got a COVID-19 booster shot on 13 August, the day his country became the first nation to offer a third dose of vaccine to people as young as age 50. “We’re in a race against the pandemic.”
His message was meant for his fellow Israelis, but it is a warning to the world. Israel has among the world’s highest levels of vaccination for COVID-19, with 78% of those 12 and older fully vaccinated, the vast majority with the Pfizer vaccine.
Yet the country is now logging one of the world’s highest infection rates, with nearly 650 new cases daily per million people.
More than half are in fully vaccinated people, underscoring the extraordinary transmissibility of the Delta variant and stoking concerns that the benefits of vaccination ebb over time.
The sheer number of vaccinated Israelis means some breakthrough infections were inevitable, and the unvaccinated are still far more likely to end up in the hospital or die.
But Israel’s experience is forcing the booster issue onto the radar for other nations, suggesting as it does that even the best vaccinated countries will face a Delta surge.