Health Ministry to open panel on vaccinating 5-11-year-olds to public

Israel Center for Disease Control committee members to answer questions submitted ahead of discussion; kids’ COVID-19 inoculations expected to begin mid-November

Illustrative: A young girl receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary Clalit Health Services facility in Jerusalem, August 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: A young girl receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary Clalit Health Services facility in Jerusalem, August 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry announced Friday that it would open up its upcoming panel discussion on COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged 5-11 to the public, set to be aired live, and would take questions from a pre-vetted group of 20 people.

“The Israel Center for Disease Control [ICDC] decided to broadcast the debate live, and invite the public, to both voice their position to the committee members and to present questions to the experts, as part of a transparent process on the subject,” the ministry said in a statement.

It added that the ICDC would not make their final recommendation on the vaccine for 5-11-year-olds during the upcoming debate — set to take place on Thursday at 3 p.m. — but would do so at a later date.

Those who wish to be included in the panel can submit a request which must include sufficient reason for their participation. In total, 20 people from the public will be randomly selected, and given three minutes each during the debate, the ministry said.

The ministry also said the public can submit questions related to the hearing, some of which will be addressed by the committee members.

Health Ministry officials have said that Israel could greenlight coronavirus vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 starting mid-November, following the approval of the shots by US regulators. On Tuesday, a US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted unanimously with one abstention that the vaccine’s benefits in preventing COVID-19 in that age group outweigh any potential risks.

A health worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit health care center in Jerusalem, September 30, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In Israel, full-strength Pfizer shots are already recommended for anyone 12 or older, but pediatricians and many parents are anxiously awaiting protection for younger children to stem infections from the extra-contagious Delta variant and to help keep kids out of quarantine and in school.

The shots for children under 12 are expected to be one-third the dose for adults.

Israel appears to be at the tail end of its fourth coronavirus wave, as new infections and serious cases have ticked down over the past few weeks.

The Health Ministry said on Friday that just 651 new coronavirus cases were confirmed the previous day, with a positive testing rate of 0.92%.

There were 9,354 active cases, including 325 patients hospitalized. Of them, 227 were in serious condition, with 133 of them on respirators.

Israel’s total COVID death toll since the start of the pandemic reached 8,081.

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