Virus czar: We expect to start vaccinating children within weeks

Ash says waiting for FDA and local approval after Pfizer’s positive results in trials for kids 12-15; says officials looking to restore full classes in schools, cancel pod system

Israeli students go to school in Yad Mordechai, March 07, 2021 (Flash90)
Israeli students go to school in Yad Mordechai, March 07, 2021 (Flash90)

National coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said Sunday that he believes that all the pieces will be in place for Israel to start vaccinating children in the next few weeks.

“We need to get the FDA and the [Israeli] committee approval,” Ash told Army Radio. “I guess we will get these approvals in the coming weeks and start vaccinating children as well.”

Ash also said that as infection numbers have plummeted, he hoped schools could soon scrap the pod system of small, set groups for older children’s studies, and return to classes being held normally.

“Today there are no red towns [with high infection rates]. We are examining where and how the pods can be canceled. It will be gradual, and there will be monitored [virus] testing in some places, but we are heading in the direction of returning to full-class studies,” Ash said.

Israel’s coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash visits the Ziv hospital in Safed, December 24, 2020 (David Cohen/Flash90)

The comments came days after BioNTech-Pfizer said its vaccine showed 100 percent efficacy against the coronavirus in 12- to 15-year-olds.

The Health Ministry said Wednesday that it was ready to vaccinate the country’s young adolescents as soon as the US Food and Drug Administration and European regulators authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for young teens.

A ministry official said there is enough existing stock of Pfizer vaccines in Israel to start inoculating about 600,000 Israelis aged 12-15.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has expressed optimism that the shots will be approved for children younger than 12 in the fall of 2021. The company has already begun vaccine trials on young children.

Student receives the COVID-19 vaccination at the Amal high school in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, March 17, 2021 (Flash90)

Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy said Friday children in Israel could be vaccinated as early as May, and that the the inoculation drive could begin “the moment there is approval from the FDA.”

Israel already began inoculating teens aged 16-18 in January.

The pandemic has ebbed in Israel due to the successful vaccination campaign, which has seen a majority of citizens get the shots.

The number of active coronavirus cases in Israel has dipped to the lowest level since June 2020 as serious infections hit a three-month low.

An Israeli health care professional tests a a child for the coronavirus at a testing center in Jerusalem during a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Jan. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Israel has so far vaccinated over 4.8 million people with two coronavirus vaccine shots. About 56.3% of Israelis, more than 5.2 million, have received at least one vaccine shot.

When it comes to vulnerable populations, those numbers are much higher: Over 80% of all Israeli residents over 50 are fully inoculated with two vaccine shots, as are 90% of the over-70 population.

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