As COVID infection rises, Bennett to evaluate holding Hanukkah events

Some one million children’s doses arrive in country as reproduction rate hits one for this time in 10 weeks * PM to hold meeting on COVID outline for Hanukkah events

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other top officials are seen following the completion of the COVID-19 'war games' exercise. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other top officials are seen following the completion of the COVID-19 'war games' exercise.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

Israel will launch its children’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Tuesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wrote Friday on Facebook.

Special 10-microgram Pfizer vaccine doses for children ages five to 11 arrived in Israel on Saturday, just as the reproduction rate hit one for the first time since September 6 and health experts fear that the virus could be starting to spread again.

The vaccines were sent to the Teva Pharmaceuticals logistics center in Shoham, from where they will be distributed to the health funds. The center shared images of dozens of boxes of vaccines being prepared for the country’s campaign.

The reproduction rate or “R” represents the number of people a sick person will infect. When the R is at 0.8 or below, health experts understand that morbidity is waning. The R has been on the rise since this time last month. It held at 0.73 on October 20 and reached 0.88 on November 4 before rising to one.

“The Health Ministry monitors the reproduction rate on a regular basis,” its COVID-19 headquarters told The Jerusalem Post in a statement. “The reproduction rate has reached one, which means that the fading of the virus has stopped. If the increase continues, we may need to take various steps to reduce infections.

Vaccines to be used for children arrive in Israel, November 2021.

“We call on everyone who can and is eligible to go and get vaccinated, and to adhere to existing guidelines, including wearing masks and keeping the Green Pass rules,” the ministry said.

The Prime Minister’s Office said that Bennett will hold a special discussion on Sunday regarding preparation for Hanukkah events in light of the number of new infections. At this point, it seems that celebrations will carry on as usual under the Green Pass regulations. Bennett said, however, that organizers will be informed that "surprise checks" could be carried out to ensure the Green Pass outline is being enforced.

CORONAVIRUS CASES in Israel had been going down over the past few months since Israel launched its third-shot campaign. To date, more than four million Israelis have received a booster. However, this week numbers started to creep up once again.

Whereas last week the average number of new daily cases was 443, this past week the average was 490. More than three-fourths of new cases on Thursday were people who were not vaccinated, compared to less than 10% who had received the booster.

The PMO said Bennett will put a focus on the 950,000 Israelis who are eligible but have not yet received their third shot.

But Prof. Yehuda Adler, a specialist in cardiology, internal medicine and health management and a coronavirus consultant to local authorities, told N12 on Friday that a study at Sheba Medical Center found that even four months after receiving the booster there is a decline in antibodies, calling into question for just how long these booster shots will be effective.

He also noted that there is fear that a variant could enter through Ben-Gurion Airport after the government decided to lighten travel restrictions, which went into effect this month.

No new restrictions are currently being considered. It has been Bennett’s policy to keep the economy fully open.

Nearly half (49%) of new cases were children between the ages of 0 and 11, who cannot get vaccinated yet – though, as noted, that should change at least for some of these children on Tuesday.

Health experts have said that it is too early to consider any shifts in the number of cases as being the start of a fifth wave, adding that the fourth wave never really ended.  Nonetheless, the prime minister has termed this wave the "children's wave." The hope is that vaccinating children ages five to 11 will help keep infection levels in check.

ONE OF the ideas that Bennett has is to set up vaccination complexes with kid stars near Hanukkah events to encourage parents to vaccinate their children . A survey conducted by Maccabi Health Services and released by N12 showed that 41% are likely to bring their young children to get the jab, 21% are unsure and 38% are unlikely to do so.

Experts believe that between 50% to 60% of parents will inoculate their kids.

“I know there is a certain sensitivity around [vaccinating kids],” Bennett said in his Facebook post. “There are a lot of people who are afraid to vaccinate children and they are not necessarily ‘vaccine opponents’ or those who buy into conspiracy theories.

“We will reveal all of the authoritative scientific information to you, the parents, and you will make a decision,” he continued. “We are determined to protect the citizens of Israel from the disease and its economic consequences.”

The ministry’s Vaccination Advisory Board is set to meet on Sunday to determine the final details for the rollout of children’s vaccines, including how far apart to administer the two required shots.

Bennett said that he will take his own son, David, to get vaccinated on Tuesday. The Prime Minister’s Office said that he will ask ministers and Knesset members who have children of relevant ages to do the same and to share photos on social media, to help encourage parents. He will also meet with teachers and pediatricians, who according to studies that have been presented to him, could have the most influence on parents’ decisions.

On Saturday night, the Health Ministry reported 497 new cases of the virus. Some 133 patients were hospitalized in serious condition – up seven from the day before – including 82 who were intubated. The death toll stood at 8,154.