Over a week into the campaign to vaccinate children aged 5-11, only 65,000 out of more than a million eligible children have been inoculated with their first dose, data released by the Health Ministry on Thursday morning showed.
According to Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, director of Ben-Gurion University’s School of Public Health who is also an adviser to the ministry, families from low socioeconomic backgrounds appear to be far less likely to jab their children than those with higher status.
“I think that we can look at a situation where the glass is half full and half empty,” Davidovitch said. “On the one hand, the vaccination rate is better than when we started to inoculate children aged 12 to 15. On the other hand, we again see very large gaps according to socioeconomic status: those who come from a higher socioeconomic status are going to get vaccinated in much higher numbers.”
Since the vaccination campaign began, Israel has been giving between 8,000 and 10,000 first shots a day, mostly to children in the cohort. In the first days of the drive for 12- to 15-year-olds in June, the numbers stood at around 2,000-4,000 shots per day. Currently, around 60% of the 626,000 Israelis of that age are vaccinated.
“I think that as we saw with older children and with adults, it is very important to bring more vaccines out in the community and not vaccinate only in health funds’ clinics,” Davidovitch said. “We need to set vaccination stations in the town squares, outside Hanukkah events and we need to be more active in the Arab and the ultra-Orthodox sector. It has already been done, but we need to do more.”
Davidovitch also said that so far, side effects have been mild.
Maccabi HMO pediatrician Dr. Ameer Elemy, based in Nazareth, also said making sure that vaccines and doctors are easily available in the communities is crucial.
“In the Northern District at Maccabi we have a lot of pediatricians and family doctors [so] people can find appointments quickly – and this makes a difference,” he said.
Maccabi is also organizing vaccination stations in the villages in the areas.
So far, more than 15% of the children who are members of Maccabi have been jabbed or have booked an appointment, a much higher percentage than in the general population.
“Parents are coming with a lot of questions about vaccinating their children,” Elemy said. “I see they want to get them inoculated, but they also have fears.”
According to the doctor, the information coming from the US, where about four million children have been jabbed, as well as from Israel, is helping to reassure them.
On the other hand, developments around the new Omicron variant are not always helping.
“Many parents are hearing that the vaccines might not be so effective against it and think that there is no point in getting their children vaccinated,” Elemy noted. “I try to explain to them that even if this turns out to be true, the dominant variant in Israel is Delta and it is very important to protect children against it.”