Israel launched a coronavirus vaccination campaign tailored to the highly infectious omicron variant on Thursday, with authorities urging higher-risk groups and those over 65 to get the shot. Israel was the first in the world to vaccinate its population in early 2021 and is now one of the first to apply omicron-specific vaccines.

Health authorities have expressed fear that contagion will increase next winter. Arsen Arutiunian, an official at the Clalit health institute, said there had been a “huge demand” for the booster since the campaign began.

He said the clinic has been inundated with phone calls from people of all ages asking for an appointment to get vaccinated. “I have received all previous vaccinations. Until now, I knock on wood, I have not been infected and my whole family has been Teflon,” said Eytan Gurfinkel, a resident of Tel Aviv.

There were 95 people hospitalized with severe coronavirus cases on Thursday, the fewest since May. More than 11,600 Israelis have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, according to Health Ministry statistics.

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