Israel has invalidated approximately 2 million vaccine passports after requiring individuals to have a COVID-19 booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated. The country is now requiring the third dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination for those 12 years of age or older, with the exception of those who received their second dose or tested positive for COVID-19 within the last six months.
The New York Times reports that this policy change comes with rising cases numbers in Israel due to the development of the extremely transmissive Delta variant. This summer, a fourth wave of increasing COVID-19 cases wracked the country as a result of fading immunity for those who received their second dose of Pfizer five to six months prior.
“Now is the time to be strict about the Green Pass, be cautious and not become complacent,” said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet. Prime Minister Bennet has been a longtime proponent of the booster shot, telling The New York Times that it “saved lives and allowed the economy to remain open.”
Data published in the New England Journal of Medicine proved the efficacy of the Pfizer booster shot. The study found that participants 60 years of age or older who had received two doses of Pfizer at least five months earlier experienced lower rates of confirmed Covid-19 cases and lower rates of severe illness after receiving a booster shot. The results showed the confirmed rate of infection was lower in the group that received the booster than in the group that hadn’t by a factor of 11.3 and the rate of severe illness was lower by a factor of 19.5.
While the numbers confirm that booster shots are effective, the implementation of the new vaccination requirements has not been without its challenges. Protesters in Israel took to the streets calling the system of green passes “forced vaccination,” reports The Associated Press. However, this opinion is one of the few, not the many. Over 60 percent of Israel’s population has received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and approximately 37 percent have received the booster, demonstrating that the majority are complying with the mandates.
Another issue that has presented itself with the new vaccination requirements is the Israel Health Ministry Portal crashing due to its inability to handle the increased number of people attempting to get new green passes. Due to the heavy traffic on the website and app, the ministry stated that previous passes will remain valid for the next several days until they can catch up on issuing the new ones.
Despite the new mandates, The Associated Press continues that the unvaccinated population is still at the highest risk of serious infection, with over 70 percent of terminal cases in Israeli hospitals amongst unvaccinated individuals. The Guardian emphasizes that the current push for booster shots is to provide “immediate benefit directly to this highly motivated group and the communities in which they live,” while programs aimed at encouraging the unvaccinated to receive their shots continue to across the country.