Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Thursday that he believes the US Food and Drug Administration will approve coronavirus vaccines for children aged six to 11 in some two months.
Bennett made the prediction during a live Q&A session he held on TikTok as part of his efforts to reach out to younger Israelis and encourage them to get vaccinated.
Contrary to the government’s previous decisions regarding the vaccine, which pre-empted approval from the FDA, the prime minister said he felt that for this it would be better to wait for US authorities to give the go-ahead. However, he clarified that as soon as the approval is granted, Israel will follow suit.
“On this matter, I felt it would be too great a risk in the absence of knowledge at this stage, Bennett said when pressed on the matter. “There are times where I am willing to take a risk, in this case, I was not. I expect that in the next two months the long-awaited [FDA] approval will arrive, and then we will surely do it.”
Israel currently has authorized vaccines for the entire population 12 and up, including a third booster shot after five months.
Pfizer announced in March that it had begun testing the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with German partner BioNTech on children younger than 12 and was hoping for results later this year.
The study initially included 144 participants between 6 months and 11 years old, with the two-shot vaccine administered in different sized doses. It was later expanded to 4,500 children.
During the live stream, Bennett also touted Wednesday’s return to school of over 2 million children and reiterated his determination to do everything to avoid further lockdowns.
“This is a much more difficult approach because it would be so easy to lock down the country and here, you won, Bennett said. “The problem is that this is destructive: It destroys businesses. It is awful for young people, who for long months are stuck on Zoom, staring at their screens.”
Still, he cautioned avoiding a lockdown was dependant on cooperation from the public.
“Where are we at the moment? The battle is close but I can tell you that if we all continue acting the way we have been, meaning going to get vaccinated and wearing masks in closed places, we can overcome the current wave without lockdowns, if we do the right things,” Bennett said.
He also noted that families would be able to celebrate the upcoming Rosh Hashanah holiday together next week and “not like last year when everyone was alone.”
While Bennett was attempting to reach out to the youth, not all were receptive. Many of the messages posted by viewers were insulting, with some accusing him of stealing the election from former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Also participating in the broadcast was Dr. Meir Ezra-Alia, a pediatrician with Maccabi Healthcare Services who gave medical responses to some of the questions.
Israel on Sunday made booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine available to everyone age 12 and up who received the second shot at least five months ago, in an effort to combat spiraling coronavirus infections.
Israel — the first country to officially offer a third dose — began its COVID booster campaign on August 1, rolling it out to all those over age 60. It then gradually dropped the eligibility age, expanding it last week to anyone 30 and older. As of Sunday, over 1.9 million Israelis had received the third dose.