Chile has started giving the fourth dose of COVID vaccines as the Omicron variant causes a surge in cases. It is the first Latin American country to administer the fourth dose of jabs.

People with immunocompromised conditions will be the first in line to receive the shots, while the program will be extended to all those over the age of 55 in February, according to a BBC News report.

The country's vaccination campaign started with the Chinese-made Sinovac COVID vaccine, and the expansion of the program will include fourth doses.

The fourth dose will use a combination of Sinovac, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca jabs.

President Sebastián Piñera urged the people to get vaccinated, noting that the shots are safe and that they work.

Piñera visited a Santiago hospital where fourth doses were offered on Monday.

He also said that those refusing to be vaccinated are irresponsible. The president addressed those unvaccinated, saying that they will be infected, infecting their families, partners, and work colleagues.

Chile has reported its daily infections to more than 4,000, according to government data.

The new cases show soaring infections globally despite hopes over data implying that Omicron variant may be less fatal, if more contagious, according to a Reuters report.

Piñera said that the fourth dose will be available to everyone, starting with immunocompromised people.

Chile has fully vaccinated more than 14 million people out of its 19 million population since the end of 2020.

Its Ministry of Health also noted that 11.3 million people have already received a third booster dose.

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COVID Vaccine Fourth Dose

Little data has come out so far regarding how effective fourth doses are. However, evidence from Israel found that extra dose increased antibodies against COVID by five times a week after the shot, according to a Forbes report.

Professor Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the infectious diseases unit at Sheba Medical Center, said that it is not enough, and researchers were looking for better results.

Regev-Yochay said it does not give the same effect as the first booster shot.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that the agency is monitoring data on the fourth dose. Immunocompromised Americans are also seen to be eligible for a fourth vaccine dose.

Meanwhile, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company will be releasing a COVID vaccine that targets the Omicron variant in March, according to a CNBC report.

Bourla said that the company is already beginning to manufacture some of the quantities at risk.

The Pfizer top official said that the vaccine will also target the other variants that are currently circulating. However, it is not yet clear whether or not an Omicron is needed or how it would be used.

Bourla said that they hope the vaccine will achieve better protection against COVID infections.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel also said the company is working on a booster that targets Omicron. Bancel noted that the demand is high as governments around the world prepare for regular vaccination against COVID.

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This article is owned by Latin Post.

Written by: Mary Webber

WATCH: Chile rolls out fourth vaccine dose as COVID-19 cases rise - from Al Jazeera English