COVID-19: Vaccination for juniors starts, hundreds already jabbed

Some 600,000 young Israelis aged 12-15 now eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

Yossi Guggenheim, 12, getting vaccinated (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yossi Guggenheim, 12, getting vaccinated
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Hundreds of children age 12 to 15 received their first corona jabs on Sunday, as the vaccination campaign for their age group began in Israel.
Some 600,000 young Israelis are now eligible for the shot, and as with adults, they will receive two injections of the Pfizer vaccine some three weeks apart.
“This is great news, this guarantees us herd immunity,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during an event to honor the health system efforts during the pandemic.
When Israel launched its vaccination campaign in December, authorities and health experts hoped that herd immunity could be reached despite children under age 16 – about three million people – not being eligible for the shot.
As the highly contagious British variant made its way into the country and became the dominant strain of the virus, the hope was soon abandoned: without the ability to inoculate at least 80% of Israel’s nine million citizens, the target was beyond reach, experts warned.
At the moment, some 5.45 million adults have already been vaccinated at least with one dose, and 5.13 million with two doses, but the pace of vaccination has slowed down, from over 200,000 jabs every day in January to some 3,000 in the past week.
“It is great to get vaccinated,” said 15-year-old Yuval, after she got jabbed at Meuhedet’s Misgav Ladach Hospital in Jerusalem.
The girl was accompanied by her father, Roni, who explained that Yuval is the youngest of his three children, and everyone else in the family is already vaccinated.
“Now we all feel safe,” he said, adding that they booked the appointment for her as soon as system allowed it.
The 15-year-old said she is especially eager to fly abroad once she is fully vaccinated, however her father said that “at the moment we are not planning to travel.”
Asked if her friends are getting inoculated as well, Yuval said that “some are and some aren’t.”
“We decided to get her jabbed because we want to travel,” said another mother, as her14-year-old daughter was getting the shot.
“A lot of people have been coming all day long,” said Michael, the nurse in charge of the vaccination. “Almost all those who have made appointments have shown up.”
Overall, over 12,000 appointments have already been booked, according to the data provided by the health funds.
After the Health Ministry approved inoculation for the age group on Wednesday, healthcare providers Clalit, Maccabi and Leumit began opening appointments for their relevant members. Meuhedet began offering vaccinations on Thursday.
The four HMO’s have been largely in charge of the vaccination campaign since it began in December.
The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization to use the Pfizer vaccine on the young age group on May 11, and hundreds of thousands of young Americans have been inoculated so far.
In light of the extremely low morbidity rate in Israel, the Health Ministry decided to recommend the vaccine for at-risk groups, including children with preexisting conditions and children who are going to fly abroad, as well as to open up the opportunity to get vaccinated for all those in the age group.
“Many parents are asking me for clarifications about the ministry’s instruction, and what is the difference between recommending and enabling children to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Doron Dushnitzky, pediatric specialist from the medical division at Leumit. “We explained to them that the situation is very different from what we had with adults. For this reason, we emphasize that it is very important to inoculate children with risk factors, but if parents of healthy children wish to wait a little longer, they can do it.”
However, Dushnitzky noted that while the morbidity in Israel is extremely low at the moment – only 230 active cases remain – the situation could change rapidly.
“If a new variant was to spread, it would take some time before people become aware of it and the disease could have already spread in the community before children are vaccinated,” he said.