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A health care worker administering a coronavirus vaccine in Modi'in-Maccabim-Re'ut, Israel, on July 5. Photo: Gil Cohen Magen/Xinhua via Getty Images

Israel on Monday will begin offering a third dose of Pfizer and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine as a booster shot for people with weakened immune systems, according to the Times of Israel.

Why it matters: It's one of the first countries to offer booster shots to bolster protection against the rapidly spreading Delta variant. The Israeli Health Ministry is still determining whether an extra shot should be offered to the general public.

  • Despite a world-leading vaccine rollout, new coronavirus cases have surged in Israel over the past month in part because of the highly contagious Delta variant.
  • Israel's Health Ministry announced last week that the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine had dropped to 64% against all COVID-19 infections, down from 95% in May.

What they're saying: World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday criticized the notion of administering booster doses in high-income countries when many low-income countries are struggling with gaining access to first doses.

  • "We’re making conscious choices right now not to protect those in most need,” Tedros said. "Currently, data shows us that vaccination offers long-lasting immunity against severe and deadly COVID-19. The priority now must be to vaccinate those who have received no doses and protection."
  • "Instead of Moderna and Pfizer prioritizing the supply of vaccine as boosters to countries whose populations have relatively high coverage, we need them to go all out to channel supply to COVAX, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and low- and middle-income countries which have very low vaccine coverage," he continued.

The big picture: Pfizer and BioNTech announced last week that they will seek authorization to offer an updated booster shot in the United States and European countries.

  • Pfizer also released the results of a study on booster shots, finding that a third dose was 5–10 times more effective at neutralizing the virus than two doses because of "an observed decline in efficacy against symptomatic disease over time."

Go deeper ... Study: Delta coronavirus variant evades antibodies through mutations

Correction: This story has been updated to remove references to Israel being the first country to offer a third booster shot. Turkey and several other countries offered boosters after Chinese-made vaccines provided weak protection against COVID.

Go deeper

Sep 22, 2021 - Health

FDA approves Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people at high risk of severe COVID-19 and people 65 years and older.

Driving the news: The approval comes just days after an FDA advisory panel recommended boosters for the two groups but overwhelmingly voted against the third shots for younger Americans.

Updated 24 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: FDA approves Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up — Team USA to mandate vaccine for Winter Olympic hopefuls — U.S. to buy 500 million more Pfizer doses to share with the world.
  2. Health: Some experts see signs of hope as cases fall — WHO: Nearly 1 in 4 Afghan COVID hospitals shut after Taliban takeover — D.C. goes further than area counties with vaccine mandates.
  3. Politics: Bolsonaro isolating after health minister tests positive at UN summit — United Airlines says 97% of U.S. employees fully vaccinated — Mormon Church to mandate masks in temples.
  4. Education: Asymptomatic Florida students exposed to COVID no longer have to quarantine — Education Department investigating Texas mask mandate ban — D.C. schools to require teachers, staff to receive vaccine without testing option.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Sep 23, 2021 - World

WHO: Nearly 1 in 4 Afghan COVID hospitals shut after Taliban takeover

A family member stands beside a COVID-19 patient at the Muhammed Ali Jinnah hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, in June. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

Afghanistan's health system is "on the brink of collapse" due to international funding cuts since the Taliban took over the country, World Health Organization officials said Wednesday.

The big picture: Nine of Afghanistan's 37 COVID-19 hospitals have closed and "all aspects" of the country's pandemic response have declined, including testing and vaccination, per a statement from WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus following his visit to the capital, Kabul, where he met with Taliban leaders.