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Israel to start vaccinating kids aged 5-11 who have severe background illnesses

Health Ministry says it will limit approval only to children with highest risk of serious complications if they catch COVID-19

A young Israeli receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Petah Tikva, on July 19, 2021. (Flash90)
A young Israeli receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Petah Tikva, on July 19, 2021. (Flash90)

The Health Ministry told Israel’s healthcare providers Tuesday that they can administer coronavirus vaccines to children aged 5-11 who have serious background illnesses that could make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

In a document published by the ministry, it stressed that kids who can get the shot are only those who have a “high probability of serious illness and even death following infection with the new coronavirus.”

Authorizations for individual children must be granted by the healthcare provider and then be validated by the ministry. The ministry’s policy would be to minimize the number of authorizations and issue them only for those with the highest risk, it said.

The Health Ministry said the medical conditions that could warrant such authorization include extreme obesity (BMI over the 99th percentile for age and sex), severe chronic lung illness, neurodevelopment disorders, congestive heart failure, sickle cell anemia and severe autoimmune diseases.

Regarding children treated with medications that harm their immune system, the ministry said that in each individual case the doctor should explain the considerations to the parents. Even if the approval is given, the statement said the final decision will lie with the parents.

Any approval given will be individual, and won’t be in effect for all those who belong to the same risk group.

The vaccine administered to kids who get the approval must be the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, the ministry said. The dose will be 1.0 milliliters rather than the normal 3.0.

The development came after both Pfizer and Moderna were reportedly expanding vaccine studies to children aged 5 to 11.

Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared for packaging at the company’s facility in Puurs, Belgium, March 2021. (Pfizer via AP)

Moderna said Monday it expects to have enough data to apply for FDA authorization in younger kids by late this year or early 2022.

Pfizer has previously said it expects to apply in September for children ages 5 through 11. Results for two younger age groups that began testing a little later should be available by October or November, according to the company.

Israel is already vaccinating teenagers aged 12-15, as cases of the Delta variant of the virus have been rising quickly despite widespread vaccination among the country’s adults.

Daily coronavirus cases reached another high Tuesday, with Health Ministry data showing 2,212 new confirmed carriers a day earlier, numbers not seen since mid-March.

There were 138 patients in serious condition as of Tuesday morning, an increase of 17 over the night before.

The Health Ministry said the number of active cases stood at 13,147, with the death toll steady at 6,461.

People, some wearing face masks, walk on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, July 25, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The rate of positive tests rose above 2 percent for the first time since March on Sunday, and still remained above that level on Monday, when 2.3% of tests gave a positive result out of 92,707 samples taken.

Kan news said that 203 of the cases diagnosed on Monday were individuals who had returned from abroad within the previous 10 days. According to figures cited by Channel 12, some 2,000 travelers infected with COVID-19 entered Israel this month.

As of Tuesday, 5,767,009 people in Israel had received at least one vaccine dose, and 5,321,379 were fully vaccinated.

Pfizer has been seeking FDA authorization for a third shot, though the US regulator and some Israeli health officials have said there is no evidence boosters are needed at this time. Israel is currently offering a third dose only to the immunocompromised.

AP contributed to this report.

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