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Israel to begin giving COVID boosters to at-risk kids aged 5-11

Those with higher potential for serious illness will receive a third dose of Pfizer’s version of the vaccine designed for children

An Israeli child receives his second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at Clalit vaccine center for children in Kfar Saba, December 13, 2021. (Flash90)
An Israeli child receives his second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at Clalit vaccine center for children in Kfar Saba, December 13, 2021. (Flash90)

The Health Ministry said Thursday it has decided to offer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to children aged 5-11 who are at risk for serious illness.

The group, which according to Channel 12 numbers some 1,000 kids, was also the first in that age bracket to receive the initial vaccinations, prior to their broad approval.

The heads of health maintenance organizations (HMOs) have been instructed to begin administering the boosters. The children will receive a third dose of Pfizer’s version of the vaccine designed for children.

Up until now, the booster was only earmarked for those over the age of 11.

The decision to expand the third shot’s eligibility comes after Health Ministry-led research published on Wednesday found that children who were vaccinated against coronavirus were catching the Omicron variant at less than half the rate of their unvaccinated peers.

The research looked at children aged 5-11 and found that the vaccines offered strong protection against coronavirus variants, especially in the first few months after being administered.

“Even during the Omicron wave, a vaccine given in the last three months — whether two doses or a booster dose — provides improved protection against infection compared to the unvaccinated or those whose vaccines are out of date,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on January 11, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Despite the positive data, hospitalizations among youths have doubled from 52 patients to 104 patients in recent days, according to a Wednesday report by Kan news.

According to official ministry data released Wednesday, some 2% of all patients in serious or critical condition were four years old or younger, up from an average of 1% in the days prior. While those in the 5-11 group remained at 0%, according to the data, those 12-15 were up from 0% to 1%.

The figures showed that over 53,000 of the over 388,000 current active infections are among those aged 5-11, with over 47,000 of them unvaccinated. Another 34,000 active infections come from the 12-15 age group, though among that cohort, the vaccinated are in the majority, with nearly 20,000 of the cases.

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