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Bennett: COVID vaccinations for children aged 5-11 to start Tuesday

PM promises ‘total transparency’ to relieve parents of concerns related to the Pfizer shot; delivery of kid-sized doses was delayed but first shipment expected Sunday

Prime Minister Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz attend a press conference at a Maccabi vaccine center in Holon, on June 29, 2021. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
Prime Minister Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz attend a press conference at a Maccabi vaccine center in Holon, on June 29, 2021. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Friday that Israel will begin to vaccinate children aged 5-11 starting Tuesday, after a delivery of kids-sized Pfizer-BioNTech doses had been delayed by a week.

“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.

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry notified the country’s health management organizations that the delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for children, which had been scheduled to arrive the previous evening, would not reach the country until next week.

The Health Ministry was still waiting for an explanation for the delay, the Kan public broadcaster said.

An 11-year-old gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, on November 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

According to Hebrew media reports Friday, the first shipment with hundreds of thousands of doses will arrive Sunday.

When the adult doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shots were first approved for use last year, Israel secured a place high on the list of receiving countries, with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally negotiating deals with the company’s CEO.

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 US have been given the shots.

In Israel, 6,263,415 people have so far received a first vaccine dose and 5,761,459 have received two doses. Of those, 4,038,711 people have been administered a third booster shot, Health Ministry data showed on Friday.

Meanwhile, the reproduction rate (R-number) rose on Friday to 1, indicating the virus is again spreading, even as serious cases continue to wane.

Health care staff test for COVID-19 at a drive through complex in Modi’in, on November 10, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

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 percent returned positive.

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