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Israel approves Biontech vaccine for children aged five and over

The corona vaccine from Biontech / Pfizer can now also be given to children between the ages of five and eleven in Israel. The Ministry of Health decided on Sunday, after an advisory committee had previously spoken out in favor of it. So far, the vaccination approval was only valid for children from the age of twelve and adults. The additionally required doses are to be delivered to Israel in the coming days and enable the vaccination campaign for smaller children to start immediately, as the newspaper “Haaretz” reported.

The advisers consulted by the Ministry of Health were practically unanimous in the conclusion that “the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh its risks,” it said. Only 2 of the 75 experts therefore voted against the release of the preparation for children aged five and over. The committee also recommended by a large majority to also vaccinate children who have already endured a corona infection.

Opinions on the question of whether the syringe should be used immediately after recovery or after a certain transition period was more divided. Almost a third of the experts pleaded for immediate vaccination, almost half advised to wait and see. In order to protect the members of the expert commission from hostility in the face of the socially heated debate, the vote took place behind closed doors.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already had an emergency approval at the end of October of the Biontech / Pfizer corona vaccine for children between the ages of five and eleven. The authority recommended ten micrograms as the dose for this age group, and the same amount is now to be injected in Israel. 30 micrograms are provided for children aged twelve and over and adults.

According to media reports, a good million five to eleven year olds could receive the vaccination in Israel. According to Haaretz, almost one in eight of the country’s relatively young population falls into this age group, which is why many experts believe that achieving herd immunity without vaccinating these children is impossible. In a study published at the end of October by the Israeli health insurance company Meuchedet, 48 percent of the parents surveyed were convinced or assumed that they would have their children vaccinated.

The manufacturers Biontech and Pfizer recently indicated the effectiveness for the age group with almost 91 percent based on symptomatic diseases. Experts point out that children generally do not have a severe course of Covid-19 – unlike, for example, seniors, for whom the vaccination is often lifesaving. In the case of minors, the expected positive effects and possible adverse effects of the vaccination are correspondingly more difficult to weigh against each other.

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appealed to all parents in parliament on Sunday to have their children vaccinated – his youngest son will also get the injection. Bennett warned against carelessness and referred to the example of several European countries in which stricter measures, including lockdowns, are now being imposed again. “It is impossible to know what is waiting for us around the next corner,” Haaretz quoted him as saying.

As early as the end of July, vaccination of five to eleven year olds was allowed in extreme exceptional cases in Israel. The exceptions should apply to children who are particularly at risk of falling seriously ill or dying in the event of a corona infection, it said at the time. The Ministry of Health cited extreme obesity, severe chronic lung diseases and heart problems as examples.

The group of up to nine years of age has already had the highest proportion of registered new infections in the country for months – followed by the 10 to 19 year olds. According to the ministry, both groups together make up around 30 percent of those infected.

However, the number of new corona infections in Israel has been falling for two months. There are now fewer than 500 per day; in September it was more than 11,000 on individual days.

(kbe)

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