Israel greenlights COVID vaccines for kids aged 5-11

The decision to approve vaccinations for kids comes after the vast majority of Health Ministry senior advisors approved their safety.

 Health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary Clalit health care center in Jerusalem, September 30, 2021. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary Clalit health care center in Jerusalem, September 30, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Israel has approved the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for children ages five to 11, Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash said on Sunday evening.

The decision comes after the vast majority (73 out of 75) of Health Ministry senior advisers said last week that they believe the vaccines have a good safety profile and voted in favor of administering them to youth.

The data presented by Pfizer indicate a 91% efficacy in preventing disease in children aged 5-11 years in a controlled clinical study, Ash noted, adding that most experts believed that the benefits of vaccinating children outweigh the risks.

He added that the date on which the vaccines will begin to be administered will be decided upon in the coming days. It is expected that the campaign will begin early next week.

Israel ordered vaccines from Pfizer a couple of weeks ago and they are expected to arrive in the country later this week.

The US Food and Drug Administration had already approved the vaccine and it has started to be administered in the States. Around a million children have already received their first dose.

 Health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary Clalit health care center in Jerusalem, October 3, 2021.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary Clalit health care center in Jerusalem, October 3, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday morning in anticipation of the vaccines’ approval that “it is the choice of parents but I call on parents to safeguard their children and have them vaccinated.

“I will certainly take my young son, David, to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Bennett said at the weekly cabinet meeting. “It could be that his mother will take him, but we will take him to get vaccinated.”

The health funds announced that they were ready to administer the shots as soon as they arrived.

“We are now awaiting the delivery of the vaccines, with the aim of opening the pediatric vaccination campaign as soon as possible,” said Maccabi CEO Sigal Dadon Levi. “Maccabi and the other health funds have already proven in the past year that they can do this in the best way possible.”

Over the weekend, The Jerusalem Post released a new survey conducted by Prof. Michal Grinstein-Weiss, director of the Social Policy Institute at Washington University, which showed that only 17% of Israeli parents were “sure” that they would vaccinate their five- to 11-year-old children. Some 20% said that they were likely to vaccinate them, 23% said they were wavering, 18% said they were not likely to vaccinate, and 22% said they were sure that they were not going to vaccinate their kids.

Parents with younger children are even less likely to do so than parents with older children within the targeted age cohort.

While almost half (46%) of parents said they would vaccinate their 11-year-old children, only around 30% said they would vaccinate their five- and six-year-olds. An average of 40% said they would vaccinate children between the ages of seven and 10.

While Israel has had a stunning, rapid and successful vaccination campaign, younger cohorts have been slower to get the jab.

In total more than 6.2 million Israelis have received at least one shot, 5.7 million of them have received two shots and more than 4 million of those three shots. However, only 58% of 12- to 15-year-olds are vaccinated and only 63% of teens ages 16-19 are.