An expert panel in Israel on Tuesday recommended that the nation begin administering fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines to anyone over the age of 18, pointing to research that the additional booster helps prevent infection and severe illness, according to The Associated Press.
The recommendation, which still needs to be approved by the country's Health Ministry director in order to go into effect, cites research that shows that the second booster provides three to five times the level of protection against serious disease from COVID-19 as three doses alone, notes the AP.
Israel is already administering a second booster shot to people over the age of 60 and people at high risk while grappling with another surge, largely caused by the omicron variant.
Last week, European Union health ministers were told to ready themselves for the potential distribution of a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if it is deemed necessary, reports Reuters.
"If we see data which is conclusive on whether a fourth dose is needed, we need to be ready to act," EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said last week in a video conference, Reuters reports.
Denmark, Sweden, and Hungary have already begun to administer second booster shots over concerns that protection may start to wane against mild, asymptomatic infection.
The two Scandinavian countries approved the fourth shot for those who are vulnerable, while in Hungary, anyone is eligible after a consultation with their doctor, Reuters reports.
Israel had been the first country to begin administering the fourth dose.
Lead researcher Gili Regev-Yochay said that the fourth vaccine dose saw a return to antibodies to preexisting levels seen right after the third dose was administered, more so than an overall increase of neutralizing antibodies against the omicron variant.
Kyriakides also noted that other policies may be more effective, such as the potential for new vaccines like the omicron-specific Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which the company announced clinical trials for on Tuesday. Pfizer's omicron-targeted vaccine is poised to be ready by March.