Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the most senior haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbis in the world, said that children over the age of five should be vaccinated against corona, a ruling that should bolster the vaccination drive among young children in the haredi sector.
The rabbi, 93, met at his Bnei Brak home on Thursday with senior medical officials and doctors, who informed him of new developments regarding the vaccine, rising case numbers, and the recent approval by the US Food and Drug Administration for administering the Pfizer vaccine to children from the age of five.
Of the haredi population, 678,000 are age 0-19 of whom 200,000 are five to 11, so the vaccination drive for this cohort is of high importance for the national child vaccination drive in general.
The meeting at Kanievsky’s home was arranged by the Health Ministry’s public diplomacy committee for the haredi sector that has suffered from disinformation campaigns regarding Kanievsky’s opinion on vaccinating children. Since Kanievsky today is the most authoritative rabbi in the non-hassidic haredi community, this disinformation threatens to undermine the coming vaccination drive.
Attending the meeting was the head of the national Magen Israel program for combating corona, Prof. Ran Balicer, COVID czar Prof. Salman Zarka, and Kanievsky’s personal doctor Mushlam Hart, all of whom “requested to hear his [Kanievsky’s] Torah perspective regarding vaccinating children,” according to the public diplomacy committee, and to receive his blessing for the child vaccination campaign.
In addition, Balicer presented data to the rabbi regarding the vaccination of one million children in the US and research on the effects of vaccinating children. “The health benefits and advantages to vaccinated children significantly outweigh risks and side-effects of the vaccine,” Balicer said.
The doctors also spoke with Kanievsky and his advisers about how to best promote vaccination for children in this age group.
After having had the information presented to him, Kanievsky said that children over five should be vaccinated, and gave a blessing to those who vaccinate to be healthy, and a blessing for success for those working in the health system.
Following the announcement of Kanievsky’s decision, the mayor of Kiryat Ye’arim [Telz-Stone], Rabbi Yitzhak Ravitz, called for the town’s children age five to 11 to be vaccinated.
“We have received the instructions of Rabbi Kanievsky, we are preparing to vaccinate the children of the town against corona during Hanukkah,” said Ravitz, adding that the Municipal Council will establish a special vaccination center during the holiday.