People wait for security checks before checking in for flights at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel. File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
July 29 (UPI) -- Israel will give people age 60 and over a Pfizer COVID-19 booster as the Delta variant spreads.
The inoculation process for people aged 60 and over will begin Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported. It's based on early data suggesting vaccine protection against the Delta variant has waned.
Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is 39% effective in Israel amid the spread of the Delta variant, according to a report last week from the country's health ministry. Still, the report's data also showed that the two-dose vaccine was more than 40% effective against preventing symptomatic COVID-19, and 88% effective against COVID-19 hospitalization.
The third dose would be offered to the 60 and over group at least five months after their second shot, according to The Wall Street Journal and CNBC.
On Wednesday, Pfizer said it plans to seek clearance next month from U.S. regulators to distribute a booster shot.
A BioNTech- and Pfizer-funded study published Wednesday showed vaccine efficacy had dropped from 96% peak to nearly 84% after four months to six months. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a post-earnings conference call the same day that some people might need a third shot "a little earlier," than within 12 months to maintain high level of protection against the virus.
"We have seen also data from Israel that there is waning of immunity and that starts impacting what used to be what was 100% against hospitalization," Bourla told CNBC's "The Exchange" Wednesday. "Now, after the six-month period, is becoming low 90s and mid-to-high 80s."
Dr. Kate O'Brien, the World Health Organization's director of immunization, said in the CNBC report Wednesday the WHO doesn't recommend COVID-19 boosters "at this time," citing lack of data on their effectiveness.
U.S. and world health officials added they are looking at the Israeli research, but it was not peer-reviewed and lacks details.
Amid the rise in the Delta variant, Israel has also authorized Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11 with certain underlying health conditions that make them more at risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19, such as chronic lung disease.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated guidance to recommend masks for everyone in public indoor settings -- including those who are fully vaccinated -- in counties which have substantial or high transmission rates.