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Israel is making preparations to ensure it has sufficient vaccine supply in case a fourth round of Covid-19 shots is needed, the country’s top health official said on Sunday. 

“We don’t know when it will happen; I hope very much that it won’t be within six months, like this time, and that the third dose will last for longer," Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash said in an interview with Radio 103FM.

Israel began a drive to administer booster shots at the beginning of August, and has so far inoculated about 2.8 million people with a third dose of coronavirus vaccine. Health officials have said that the effects of the initial shots weaken five months after inoculation, making boosters necessary. Some 6 million of the 9.4 million strong population have had one dose, and about 5.5 million have had two jabs. 

The country, once a front-runner in the global race to move on from Covid-19, became one of the world’s biggest pandemic hot spots in early September, with the highest per-capita infection rate of anywhere in the week through Sept. 4, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

Ash said last week that the surge in cases appears to have been halted, and that this can be attributed to the booster shot. 

Following the spread of the delta variant over the summer, Israel saw new cases climb, reaching an all-time high on Sept. 2, as the government instituted widespread testing for children at the start of the school year. 

The rate of severe cases per 100,000 of the population among unvaccinated people is far higher than among those who have been inoculated with two doses, showing that even with immunity waning, shots provide some protection against serious illness.

Asked about a report that Israel had promised Pfizer Inc. that it would use the company’s vaccine exclusively, Ash said that the government had made no such undertaking. He said that people over the age of 18 who get their first shot are currently being given the Moderna Inc. vaccine.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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