The first shipment of kid-sized Pfizer-BioNTech doses arrived in Israel on Saturday morning, with the campaign to vaccinate younger children set to kick off this week.
The shipment of around one million vaccine doses was dispatched from Leipzig in Germany and landed at Ben Gurion Airport.
It is then being taken to Israel’s central distribution point in the city of Modiin, and from there, the doses will be sent to vaccination centers across the country. Israel is set to begin inoculating children aged 5-11 nationwide from Tuesday.
The shipment had been due to arrive last week, but was delayed.
Like the regimen for older children and adults, younger kids will also receive two doses of the vaccine.
Health officials are set to hold discussions on Sunday to decide how long to wait between the two shots, as well as vaccination recommendations for children who have recovered from the coronavirus.
The children’s Pfizer-BioNTech shots, each just one-third the size of the adult doses, are packaged differently to prevent mix-ups.
On Friday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pledged “total transparency” on the matter of inoculating children.
“I know there is a certain sensitivity around this matter. There are a lot of people who are afraid to vaccinate children, and they are not necessarily ‘anti-vaxxers’ or those who buy into conspiracy theories,” Bennett wrote in a lengthy Facebook post.
“My answer to these concerns: Total transparency,” he said.
“We will reveal all the… scientific information to you, the parents — and you will make a decision,” Bennett added, noting that he would be taking his young son to be vaccinated.
Vaccination with two shots and a follow-up booster is already available to all those aged 12 and up in Israel.
The Israeli approval of the shot for children came days after the United States Food and Drug Administration granted the vaccine authorization for the 5-11 age group.
So far, more than 2.6 million children in the United States have been given the shots, meaning that around 10 percent of children there have now received their first dose.
Meanwhile, the reproduction rate (R-number) in Israel rose on Friday to 1, indicating the virus is again spreading, even as serious cases continue to wane.
The basic reproduction number, or R-number, measures the number of new cases resulting from each infection. Any number over 1 indicates infections are rising, while a figure below that signals that an outbreak is abating.
Health officials warned on Friday that fresh restrictions could be imposed if the COVID rates continue to rise, according to Hebrew media reports.
The reproduction number has remained below 1 since September 6, but has seen a slight increase over recent days and surpassed 1 on Friday.
Nonetheless, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and serious cases saw a small drop. As of Friday morning, there were 5,215 active COVID cases in Israel, with 173 of them hospitalized, 126 in serious condition and 87 on ventilators.
A month ago, there were more than 300 Israelis with COVID in serious condition.
The number of seriously ill patients is taken as a key indicator of the gravity of virus waves, as those are the patients requiring hospital care, drawing on medical resources.
Additionally, just 467 new COVID cases were reported on Thursday, compared with peaks of more than 10,000 a day in early September. The Health Ministry said that of the over 70,000 tests carried out Thursday, just 0.71% returned positive.