Israel set to vaccinate 12- to 15-year-olds after FDA okays Pfizer shot

Officials holding talks with medical groups and HMOs in preparation for launching inoculation campaign for younger teens, Health Ministry says

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A vial of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 in Seattle, January 24, 2021. (Ted S. Warren/AP)
A vial of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 in Seattle, January 24, 2021. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

The Health Ministry said Tuesday that it was beginning preparations to vaccinate the country’s young teenage population in the wake of the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12-15.

Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy was holding meetings and consultations with relevant professional bodies, representatives of health management organizations, and pediatric doctor associations to prepare for expanding the ongoing national vaccination drive to include those aged 12-15, the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry’s epidemic treatment team “will hold discussions on the matter, addressing the issue of efficacy and safety, and will submit their recommendation to the Health Ministry,” the statement said.

In addition, the ministry said it was holding talks with HMOs to prepare to launch the campaign. It is the country’s HMOs that are administering the bulk of vaccine shots given to the public.

On Monday the FDA declared that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and offers strong protection for younger teens based on testing of more than 2,000 US volunteers ages 12 to 15. The study found no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared to 18 among kids given dummy shots. More intriguing, researchers found the kids developed higher levels of virus-fighting antibodies than earlier studies measured in young adults.

The younger teens received the same vaccine dosage as adults and had the same side effects, mostly sore arms and flu-like fever, chills or aches that signal a revved-up immune system, especially after the second dose.

Israel has already purchased millions of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in preparation for inoculating children, as well as to cover any future booster shots that may be needed.

The country’s inoculation drive, already available to anyone 16 and up, has vaccinated over half the population and is credited with being a key reason daily new coronavirus infections have dropped from thousands at the beginning of the year to just dozens.

There were just 53 new COVID-19 cases detected on Monday, according to Health Ministry figures released Tuesday.

The total number of active patients was given at 974, a level lower than any seen in over a year. There were 77 patients in serious condition.

Since the start of the outbreak in the country, 838,993 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 6,378 have died of the disease.

So far, 5,083,894 Israelis have had both doses of the vaccination, and 5,424,961 have had at least the first shot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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