JERUSALEM — Israel has begun delivering a fourth vaccine dose for people most vulnerable to coronavirus, becoming one of the first countries to do so as it prepares for a wave of infections driven by the omicron variant.

Israel, which led a world beating vaccination program in 2020, will administer a fourth dose of the vaccine to individuals with weakened immune systems along with elderly residents and employees in care homes.

The rollout of the fourth dose began at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center Friday morning and was administered to heart and lung transplant patients.

The country is currently experiencing a new wave of infections fueled by the transmissible omicron variant. There were 4,085 new cases recorded on Thursday, the highest daily count of infections Israel has seen since late September.

In response, Israel introduced new restrictions late Thursday in a bid to curb rising infection rates ahead of new year’s eve celebrations. These include a Green Pass, given to fully vaccinated individuals or those who have recently recovered from coronavirus, for outdoor events of more than 100 people and mandatory mask-wearing in outdoor events of more than 50 people.

Israel, a country of 9.3 million people, has reported 8,243 deaths from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. Most of its population — more than 6.5 million people — has received at least one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and more than 4.2 million Israelis have received two doses and a booster.


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