Israel said set to recommend vaccinating some teens aged 12-15 against COVID-19

Health Ministry reportedly plans to allow vaccinations for youth with risk factors, despite lack of data on side effects

Illustrative: An Israeli receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Jerusalem, February 10, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: An Israeli receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Jerusalem, February 10, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Thursday recommended vaccinating some teenagers aged 12-15 against COVID-19 if they suffer from specific risk factors.

The announcement came despite the global recommendation against inoculating anyone under the age of 16 due to the lack of clinical trials on that population, Channel 13 reported.

The list of medical conditions allowing for vaccination includes morbid obesity, kidney failure, sickle cell disease, chronic lung diseases and heart failure, the report said.

It added that the recommendation wasn’t sweeping and that each individual must get a doctor’s approval in accordance with their condition and the vaccination must be approved by the Health Ministry. The children’s parents will make the final decision on vaccinations, the report said.

The Health Ministry said side effects should be closely monitored because of a lack of data on the vaccines for the age group.

Infection among children and school reopenings are a central concern during Israel’s third-wave virus outbreak. Children represent a larger proportion of infections than earlier in the pandemic, possibly due to new virus variants and the fact that a significant percentage of adults have been vaccinated.

A vaccination center in Hod Hasharon, Israel, on February 2, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Ministry officials issued dire warnings of the potentially devastating consequences of reopening schools with coronavirus morbidity remaining high, and variants of the virus hitting children harder than previous strains.

Some schools were reopened Thursday for the first time in over a month amid mass confusion due to a complicated, last-minute plan adopted by the government.

The issue of vaccine hesitancy and skepticism is also a growing concern as Israel’s world-leading inoculation campaign has slowed in recent weeks.

Officials are making moves to encourage people to get vaccines, including by combating online misinformation and planning incentives.

However, on Thursday, Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri warned local authorities on Thursday that they aren’t allowed to bar unvaccinated teachers, staff and students from entering education institutions, regardless of whether it is a private or state-affiliated institution.

In a letter to lawyers who contacted him, Nizri said he has made that legal opinion known to municipalities’ legal advisers.

“According to the current legal situation, local councils aren’t allowed to take the law into their hands and independently establish rules to limit the entry of education workers into education institutions,” he said.

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