A senior health official confirmed on Wednesday that Israel will wait for a United States Food and Drug Administration approval before it starts administering COVID-19 vaccines to children aged 5-11, as it also did before it starting vaccinating those aged 12-16.
“We are waiting for a regulatory approval,” Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the ministry’s chief of public health services, told Army Radio.
Pfizer said on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11. The lower dosage for younger children also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects — such as sore arms, fever or achiness — that teens experience, the company said.
Alroy-Preis said that the matter of vaccinating young children was different from the third booster vaccine shot, which Israel started administering before the FDA even discussed the matter, because “we saw from the data that the vaccine’s protection was waning.”
The FDA was expected to announce its decision on the boosters on Wednesday, days after its panel only recommended them for those over the age of 65 or at high risk.
Israel also started by handing the third doses to those groups, before expanding them to anyone aged 12 and up if five months have passed since their second shot.
Meanwhile, Health Ministry data has indicated that 85 percent of new serious COVID-19 patients under the age of 60 hadn’t received any vaccine dose, according to the Ynet news site. Just 2.3% of them received three vaccine doses, and the rest got two doses.
In total, over 70% of all current serious COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.
Dr. Erez Barenboim, the director of Ashdod’s Assuta hospital, said on Wednesday that “anyone who doesn’t get vaccinated is practically playing Russian roulette with their life.”
The Health Ministry said on Wednesday that 4,800 new coronavirus cases were confirmed the previous day, as testing dipped slightly over the first day of the Sukkot festival.
The rate of positive tests was 4.7%, the lowest in 1.5 months.
The ministry also said that, as of Wednesday morning, 6,073,103 Israelis have received at least one vaccine dose, 5,593,597 have gotten two shots and 3,104,708 have been administered a booster. The total population, including children who can’t be vaccinated, is around 9.3 million.
There were 74,898 active cases, including 1,123 in hospitals. Of them, 723 were in serious condition, including 251 defined as critical.
The death toll grew by 15 overnight and reached 7,582.
One of the deceased was veteran basketball coach Eric Alfasi, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 three weeks ago and died on Wednesday of complications of the disease.
Alfasi has been the coach of Israel’s youth national team and the assistant coach of the adult squad. He was the Israeli Basketball Premier League’s coach of the season in 2010, when he coached Barak Netanya, and he has coached numerous other top teams.
The league said that Wednesday evening’s league cup quarterfinal game between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Rishon LeZion would begin with a minute of applause for Alfasi, and that both teams’ players will be wearing black armbands.