In Israel, in response to a resurgence of COVID infections and severe illness at the end of July 2021, the government began to give the Pfizer vaccine booster dose to people aged 60 years or older. Evidence shows that these booster doses reduced infections and severe disease against the Delta variant for the senior population. As a result, the booster campaign was extended to younger age groups. Now, in Israel, booster doses have been approved for the entire 16+ years population who had received their second dose more than five months prior.

Boosters work across all age groups in adults

New data from 4.6 million Israelis, across all age groups, show that rates of confirmed infection and severe illness were much lower among people who received a booster dose. Confirmed infection rates across five age groups were about 10 times lower in people who got the booster compared to people who had not gotten the booster. Severe illness rates were also 19 times lower in the booster group for ages 60+, and 2 times lower for ages 40-60. For ages 60+, COVID-19 associated death rates were 15 times lower for those who had received the booster.

We know that nearly all breakthrough deaths (deaths related to COVID in vaccinated people) from COVID-19 occur in people over age 60. As a result, this new data is very important because it shows that for people 60+, Pfizer boosters offer protection from death related to COVID. It is likely that this third shot/booster will be needed about 6 months after the second dose to prevent symptomatic infections. To prevent hospitalizations and deaths, a booster is necessary for people over age 60.

Awaiting data for Moderna and J&J booster shots

We are still waiting for evidence related to the need (or not) for boosters for people who have had the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Further, we still do not know if the time between the two initial doses for any of the vaccines is important.


Photo by Parang Mehta on Unsplash