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Israel may begin vaccinating children over 12 before US approval

Health Ministry reportedly waiting only for Pfizer’s initial safety findings; some 200 Israelis under 16 already vaccinated with no serious side effects

Israeli students wearing face masks as they return to school in Aseret, February 11, 2021. (Flash90)
Israeli students wearing face masks as they return to school in Aseret, February 11, 2021. (Flash90)

Israel may begin vaccinating children aged 12 and up this spring after it receives initial safety data from Pfizer-BioNTech but before US regulators authorize the move, according to a television report on Thursday.

The Health Ministry advisory council will begin discussions on vaccinating children and teenagers as soon as Pfizer releases preliminary data on the safety of the vaccine for those aged 12-15, expected by the end of April or the beginning of May, Channel 12 reported.

The Health Ministry assumes the vaccine is just as efficient among children and will not wait to see the full clinical results, the network said.

According to the report, some 200 Israelis under the age of 16 have already been vaccinated under special circumstances, and none have reported any serious side effects.

A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine in Jerusalem, on January 24, 2021. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

The children approved by medical authorities for vaccination had known risk factors including obesity, diabetes, severe lung and heart disease, immunosuppression disorders, and cancer, the Ynet news site reported in February.

The Health Ministry has recommended vaccinating some teenagers age 12-15 against COVID-19 if they suffer from specific underlying conditions.

A recent poll showed that the issue of vaccine hesitancy and skepticism could become more acute in Israel with the question of vaccinating children.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has emergency approval for use in people 16 and older, but a clinical trial for children 12 to 15 has started. It’s expected the drugmaker could seek emergency authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration for that age group in the first half of this year.

Moderna has also started trials for children 12 and up, but says it is unlikely to have data on younger children until 2022.

A young Israeli receives a COVID-19 vaccine injection, at Clalit vaccination center in Jerusalem, on February 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The University of Oxford has announced a trial to test its AstraZeneca-produced COVID-19 vaccine on children as young as 6.

According to Health Ministry data released Thursday, 4,880,534 Israelis — 54% of the total population — have received the first vaccine dose, of whom 3,605,889 (40%) have also received the second.

Currently, several million Israelis are ineligible for the vaccine, most of them under the age of 16.

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