Thousands of Israelis ages 12-15 signed up to receive a COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday, the first day that the Health Ministry opened up the shot to that age group.
Some 600,000 Israelis are newly eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine, although the Health Ministry recommended the rollout begin with those at high risk, those who live with high-risk family members and those planning to travel.
Hebrew-language media reports indicated that more than 10,000 children have already made appointments to receive the vaccine, a small fraction of those now eligible.
“My family is at high risk so I have been home for a long time because of this,” 12-year-old Coral Kesem-Stern, who received her first shot on Sunday, told the Walla news site. “I’m happy that now I can go out of the house.”
Yossi Guggenheim, a 12-year-old from Efrat, told the site that he got the vaccine because his family is about to head out on vacation.
“I decided to get vaccinated because we’re going to Switzerland in two weeks, but even without the flight I would consider getting vaccinated,” he said. “Most of my class wants to get vaccinated, but it’s actually their parents who won’t let them.”
Dr. Doron Dushnitzky, a pediatric specialist at the Leumit health provider, told the Ynet news site that many parents don’t feel a sense of urgency to vaccinate their children.
“The general feeling is that there is no more disease and therefore it’s possible to not get vaccinated,” said Dushnitzky. “It’s presented as an open option and therefore there is no pressure. Whoever really wants it will schedule an appointment for their children, but most are apparently sitting on the fence.”
However, Noam Ze’evi, a 14-year-old from Pardes Hanna, told Ynet that he chose to get vaccinated so he wouldn’t have to enter quarantine if he comes in contact with somebody who has COVID — and so he could travel.
“It’s not exactly true to say there isn’t coronavirus — just a month ago there was a case in my school, and the next time it could be in my class,” he said. “I want to fly abroad and that’s the main reason I got vaccinated… Some of my friends are getting vaccinated and others prefer to wait. They’re divided about 50-50.”
A recent study published by the Maccabi health provider revealed that 62% of respondents agreed with the decision to approve the COVID vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds.
The move comes six months after Israel began its vaccination drive for adults, and shortly after the US Food and Drug Administration okayed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the younger age group.
Some HMOs have already vaccinated children under 16 in at-risk groups and have seen no significant side effects from the shot.
The Health Ministry stressed to The Times of Israel that vaccination will not be compulsory for adolescents, only advised, just as it is for adults.