Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi / Flash 90

If you are an Israeli and the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine didn’t work out for you, you’re in luck.

Israeli health maintenance organizations (HMOs) will begin this Thursday to offer the AstraZeneca vaccine as an alternative.

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The catch: a specific medical referral is needed to obtain the AstraZeneca shot. It is being made available only to those who either experienced significant side effects with the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or cannot take one based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.

At least 6.2 million Israelis has received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Monday (Oct. 18); 5.7 million Israelis are inoculated with both shots, and 3.8 million Israelis have received the third dose.

Unlike the vaccines made by Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna, the AstraZeneca vaccine is not based on the mRNA technology – it instead uses the more traditional weakened animal virus as a viral vector.

It also contains the coronavirus spike protein, so human cells can recognize it and produce antibodies in response.

However, similar to the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, AstraZeneca also requires two doses for full effectiveness, and full protection is achieved only after 14 days from the second shot.

It is possible to use the AstraZeneca as a second shot for those who did not do well with the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna on the first dose, and one can use the AstraZeneca as the third “booster” shot under the same conditions.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.