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Preliminary findings suggest that a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine does little to stave off infection from the omicron variant, researchers at an Israeli hospital said.
Sheba Hospital said it gave a fourth dose of either the Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna vaccine to 274 of its medical workers and found that while the booster increased antibodies, it did not prevent the spread of omicron.
"These are very preliminary results. This is before any publication, but we're giving it out since we understand the urgency of the public to get any information possible about the fourth dose," Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the hospital's infection prevention and control unit, told reporters at a virtual news conference Monday.
Israel has offered a fourth vaccine dose to people older than 60. The country has been one of the first to vaccinate its population and offer booster shots.
Dr. Nachman Ash, director of Israel's Health Ministry, said the latest information would be considered in deciding whether to widen the booster program to the general population by adding another shot.
Around the globe
In other developments Monday, New Zealand began inoculating children ages 5-11 with Pfizer's pediatric COVID-19 vaccine. More than 120,000 vaccines have been delivered to 500 vaccination centers around the country, the Health Ministry said.
"Getting vaccinated now is a great way to help protect tamariki (children) before they go back to school," Dr. Anthony Jordan, Auckland's COVID-19 vaccination program clinical director, said in a statement.
"The evidence shows that while children may have milder symptoms, some will still get very sick and end up in hospital if they do get COVID-19. Getting vaccinated also helps to prevent them from passing it on to vulnerable family members," he added.
The omicron surge is threatening hospitals in South America. The Associated Press reported that Argentina had an average of 112,000 daily confirmed cases in the week through January 16 and that the country's federation of private health care providers estimates about 15% of its health workers currently have the virus.
The news agency also reported strains on hospitals in Bolivia, Brazil and Chile.
In Hong Kong, police charged two Cathay Pacific flight attendants with breaching COVID-19 regulations. The two were released on bail and are due in court next month. They face up to six months in prison and a $640 fine.
China canceled plans to sell tickets to the general public for the Winter Olympics in Beijing because of the spread of the omicron virus. The organizing committee said tickets would be distributed to "targeted" groups of people.
Also Monday, the aid group Oxfam said the world's 10 wealthiest individuals doubled their fortunes to $1.5 trillion during the first two years of the pandemic as global poverty rates rose.
The Credit Suisse Group, a Switzerland-based global investment bank, announced the resignation of its chairman, Antonio Horta-Osorio, after an investigation revealed he had violated COVID-19 protocols, including by attending the Wimbledon tennis tournament finals in London in July.
"I regret that a number of my personal actions have led to difficulties for the bank and compromised my ability to represent the bank internally and externally," Horta-Osorio said in a statement on Credit Suisse's website.
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported Monday that it had recorded more than 330 million global COVID-19 infections and 5.5 million deaths. The center said nearly 9.7 billion vaccines had been administered.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence-France Presse.