Photo Credit: GPO
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses reporters at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Jan. 2, 2022

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced to reporters in a live broadcast Sunday that the Health Ministry has approved a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine for all Israelis age 60 and above, and for medical workers.

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“The Omicron wave is here,” he said, warning that it could peak at as many as more than 50,000 new cases of the virus diagnosed daily.

Speaking to reporters from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Bennett said the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is a “different wave” than those that preceded it, and that “it behaves differently. . .It requires us to adapt everything we knew about COVID.”

“Israel started preparing for Omicron early on,” he said. “This bought us time, which we’re using to our advantage.

“Last week Israel began vaccinating its most vulnerable citizens with a fourth dose of the COVID vaccine. Tonight I can announce that Israel will also begin administering the fourth vaccine to all Israelis age 60 and above, as well as our wonderful medical workers, four months after they have received their last dose.

“Following the approval of Israel’s Ministry of Health, Israel will once again be pioneering the global vaccination effort,” Bennett said.

“Omicron is not Delta,” he added. “It’s a different ball game altogether; we must keep our eye on the ball, act swiftly and decisively if we want to continue engaging and working with an open country as much as possible throughout this pandemic.”

Bennett also spoke of the preparations made by Israel in advance of the current wave.

“About five weeks ago, we closed the State of Israel to entry by foreign nationals. This move drastically delayed the entrance of the Omicron variant into Israel. We bought ourselves precious time and saved it well.

“We purchased medicine, including Pfizer’s Paxlovid – a drug in high demand around the world, with lots of competition among buyers. We now have the drug, and it is highly effective.

“Secondly, we prepared and are preparing the hospitals to make sure that they’ll be ready for the peak of the wave of hospitalizations.

“We also ensured that we have a sufficient supply of vaccines for the elderly and for children.”

With more than 5,000 cases of the coronavirus currently diagnosed daily in the Jewish State, Bennett reiterated that vaccination and masks remain the best way to avoid catching the virus — and if indeed one does become infected, being fully vaccinated “is the best way to get through it,” he said.

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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.