Israeli pediatricians back vaccinating under-16s when Pfizer gets go-ahead

Israeli Pediatric Association waiting for regulators to approve shot for ages 12-15, argues it is safe, 100% effective, and will reduce virus spread

A young Israeli receives a COVID-19 vaccine injection, at a Clalit vaccination center in Holon, February 4, 2021. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)
A young Israeli receives a COVID-19 vaccine injection, at a Clalit vaccination center in Holon, February 4, 2021. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

The Israeli Pediatric Association on Tuesday published a call for parents and family doctors to vaccinate their children when the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for those under 16 years old.

The association said it was waiting for regulators to approve the shot. On Friday Pfizer-BioNTech asked for authorization to use its COVID-19 vaccine on 12- to 15-year-olds in the United States.

The letter said the vaccine was safe and effective for children and would help drive down virus rates in the country.

“The Pfizer vaccine administered in Israel has been found to be 100% effective in preventing disease in children aged 12 to 15 years,” the statement said.

Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais des Sports venue in Lyon, hosting a vaccination center, on March 29, 2021, as France faces a new wave of infections of the novel coronavirus. (JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP)

The statement added that in recent months, children, and especially teenagers, have been a significant factor in the spread of the virus to other children and to adults, particularly within their families.

The letter comes after a group of 93 doctors signed on to a separate letter urging the government to hold off on vaccinating children below the age of 16 until more is learned about the coronavirus and the inoculation’s impact.

In that letter, the doctors called for the continued vaccination of vulnerable populations and argued that it is still possible to fully reopen the economy without vaccinating children who are less likely to become ill from the virus.

“There must be a recognition that we do not understand everything about the virus, the vaccine against it, and that the first commandment of medicine is ‘first do no harm,’” the doctors said.

Among the signatories were Dr. Amir Shachar, emergency room director at Netanya’s Laniado Hospital; Dr. Yoav Yehezkeli, an expert in internal medicine and a lecturer at Tel Aviv University; and Dr. Avi Mizrahi, intensive care unit director at Rehovot’s Kaplan Medical Center.

On Friday Pfizer-BioNTech asked for US authorization and said in a statement that they planned to make similar requests of other regulatory authorities worldwide in the coming days.

Their request to the Food and Drug Administration in the US comes after Phase 3 clinical trials of the Pfizer vaccine in the age group were 100 percent effective in warding off the disease, according to the companies.

In late March they published the results of trials carried out with 2,260 adolescents in the US who the companies said showed “robust anti-body responses.”

The vaccine was “well tolerated with side effects generally consistent with those observed in participants 16 to 25 years of age,” the companies said Friday.

For now, the vaccine has emergency authorization for use in people 16 and older.

A man helping a child with her mask as children make their way to school in Moshav Yashresh, on November 1, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Children are less likely to develop severe COVID so vaccinating them has been less of a priority than getting older people inoculated.

Health Ministry data showed that some 1,114 children have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, 163 of them in moderate and serious condition. Seven have died due to complications from the virus.

The Pfizer-BioNTech shot is based on novel mRNA technology and was the first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in the West late last year.

Israel has so far vaccinated some 600 children between the ages of 12 and 16 in at-risk groups against the coronavirus with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and has seen no significant side effects from the shot, a top health official said last month.

The Israeli children who have been approved by medical authorities for vaccination had known risk factors including obesity, diabetes, severe lung and heart disease, immunosuppression disorders, and cancer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said children will soon begin receiving vaccines, but hasn’t specified a timeline.

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