Israel expands booster shots to 12 and older

JERUSALEM — Israel has expanded its coronavirus booster shot program to include anyone over 12.

The decision, approved Sunday, is the latest phase of a booster program that began last month with Israelis over 60. It was expanded in phases over several weeks to people in their 50s, 40s and 30s. Some 2 million people — more than 20% of the country’s roughly 9 million people — have received a third dose.

Israel was one of the first countries to vaccinate its population early this year, allowing the government to drop almost all restrictions on public activities. But it now has one of the world’s highest rates of infection due to the rapid spread of the delta variant, even among the vaccinated, and has reinstated mask mandates and limits on crowd sizes.

Israel approved the booster program after experts concluded the vaccine’s effectiveness wanes over time. It is now offering boosters to anyone vaccinated over five months ago. Early data has indicated that the booster is slowing the spread of the delta variant and preventing serious illness among the vaccinated.

“The third vaccination works,” said Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as he appealed to the public to get vaccinated. “There are already results: The increase in severe morbidity has begun to slow. However, the peak of the campaign is yet before us.”