At-risk children received COVID vaccine despite lack of data

The Health Ministry reportedly allowed children under 16 to receive the vaccine even if they are at risk for complications caused by the virus.

Hadassah Medical Center medical staff member receives the second round of the Covid-19 vaccine, at the Hadassah Medical Center, in Jerusalem, January 11, 2021.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Hadassah Medical Center medical staff member receives the second round of the Covid-19 vaccine, at the Hadassah Medical Center, in Jerusalem, January 11, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
At least 10 children under the age of 16 who the Health Ministry considers to be at-risk for complications caused by the coronavirus have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, despite the lack of data on the vaccine's effects on children.
Pfizer began testing their vaccine in children as young as 12 in October, but studies are still ongoing and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve the vaccine for use in children under the age of 16. In Israel, teenagers born between 2003 and 2004 began getting vaccinated on Saturday evening after the Health Ministry approved a plan to allow them to get the shot.
"In some cases of immunodeficiency or special risk of coronavirus complications according to medical considerations and subject to the approval of the attending physician, [children] can be vaccinated," said the Health Ministry in a response to the reports.
According to Health Ministry systems, 10 children under the age of 16 have been vaccinated as of Wednesday morning. No side effects have been reported.
The decision to allow at risk children under 16 to get vaccinated was first published by Israel Hayom.
"I encountered exceptional cases of children, especially those aged 12 and over, who needed the vaccine. They consulted me, the children were vaccinated and they are in good condition," said Prof. Eli Somekh, an infectious diseases specialist, director of Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center’s Pediatric Division and a member of the prioritizing committee, to Israel Hayom. "These are isolated and exceptional cases."
The children who received the vaccine suffer from serious lung diseases, neurological issues or obesity, which put them at higher risk for complications caused by the novel coronavirus. They included lung transplant patients and patients with cystic fibrosis. According to Somekh, vaccination can also be approved in cases where a parent has undergone a transplant, since they are highly at risk and vaccinating their household may be necessary to protect them.
Somekh stressed that with certain at-risk children, "the benefit of the vaccine far outweighs the uncertainty about the vaccine."
DR. MICHAL STEIN, chairman of the Association for Infectious Diseases in Children and director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, told Israel Hayom that the decision to vaccinate certain at-risk children made sense, as there is no significant difference between vaccinating a 16-year-old and vaccinating a 14- or 12-year-old.
The Health Ministry's committee for determining vaccination priority recommended that a dedicated mechanism be arranged for children who are at risk or live with others who are at risk. 
"There are situations in which vaccination of adolescents and children under the age of 16 can be considered, when the estimated risk of serious illness and even death following infection with the coronavirus exceeds the possible risk of vaccination at ages for which there is no information on dosage, efficacy and safety," the committee said in an update on Tuesday. "In these cases, Form 3 is required - a doctor's instruction to use a device that is not registered at a medical institution for an individual patient."
Earlier this month, Prof. Nachman Ash, national coordinator on the pandemic, predicted that pharmacological research would establish that the minimum age threshold for the vaccines could be safely lowered from 16 to 12, and FDA approval for such use secured, by March.
Around 7.75% of Israel’s population is between the ages of 12 and 16, according to Central Bureau of Statistics data.
Reuters contributed to this report.