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Israel says it's the first country in the world to rollout a fourth COVID jab

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By Josephine Joly  with AFP
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In this Jan. 13, 2021 file photo, a man receives his second Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a private nursing home, in Ramat Gan, Israel.
In this Jan. 13, 2021 file photo, a man receives his second Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a private nursing home, in Ramat Gan, Israel.   -   Copyright  Oded Balilty / AP

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that Israelis over the age of 60 and medical teams will be eligible for a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, following the recommendation of an expert panel.

The decision came as the state struggles to contain the spread of the Omicron variant, imposing travel and other restrictions while avoiding a domestic lockdown.

"I gave an order to prepare immediately for a fourth vaccination," Bennett said Tuesday on Twitter, with a spokesperson saying Israel would be the world's first country to administer the fourth shot.

"The world will follow in our footsteps," he went on.

Earlier Tuesday, Bennett had called the country's Pandemic Expert Committee's recommendation to administer a fourth coronavirus vaccination to Israelis over 60 and medical teams "wonderful news", adding that "it will assist us in getting through the Omicron wave that is engulfing the world".

"The citizens of Israel were the first in the world to receive the third dose of the vaccine and we are continuing to pioneer with the fourth dose as well," he said in remarks relayed by his office, calling on those who meet the criteria to "go and get vaccinated".

Israel's health ministry noted that immunodeficient people will also be eligible for the fourth shot, which can be administered to them, the elderly, and the medical teams at least four months after the third shot.

Bennett's remarks came following a meeting of the country's ministerial coronavirus cabinet which convened amid growing concern over the spread of Omicron.

The cabinet had issued limitations on eating in shopping malls, instructed that children learn from home, and banned citizens and residents from US travel, adding it to a list of more than 50 countries declared off-limits in an effort to contain the Omicron variant.

Israel's "red list" includes France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, among others.

The ban comes into effect Wednesday and will remain in force for at least a week.