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The Health Ministry’s Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children aged six months to five years.

The decision will now go to the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Nachman Ash, for final approval before the vaccines can be rolled out in this age group.

The Department of Health, however, noted that panel members differed on whether the vaccine should be recommended or simply allowed in young children, and whether to vaccinate those who have recovered from COVID in the past.

For the sake of full transparency on the sensitive subject, the ministry has provided the breakdown of the panel members’ recommendations.

According to the ministry, 58% voted to recommend vaccines for high-risk children and to authorize them for children without risk factors, while 13% voted to recommend vaccinating all children, 13% voted simply for authorize the vaccine for all those over six months of age. , and 16% suggested restricting the vaccine only to high-risk young children.

Separately, 87% of panel members said there should be no difference in recommendations for those who have already tested positive for COVID, while 13% said children who have already contracted the virus should not. not be vaccinated.

A young girl receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Jerusalem on December 30, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Earlier this month, US health authorities authorized Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for children five and under, and the vaccines began to spread across the country.

The dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children – the vaccine widely used in Israel – is one-tenth the adult dose, and three injections are required. The first two are given three weeks apart and the third at least two months later.

Interest in COVID vaccines for babies and toddlers is expected to be quite low in Israel. As of Thursday, less than 18% of children aged 5 to 11 had received both doses of the COVID vaccine, while 25% had received at least one. However, among Israelis aged 12 to 15, almost 55% had received two doses and almost 15% had received a third dose of the vaccine.

Israel approved vaccines for ages 5 to 11 in November. Earlier this month it recommended that children in this age group receive a booster dose of the vaccine, but so far only 0.1% of those eligible have followed the recommendation.

An Israeli study published Thursday found that COVID vaccines halved the risk of COVID infection in children aged 5 to 11 during Israel’s winter surge of the disease. The recently peer-reviewed study, led by Clalit Healthcare Services – one of Israel’s four healthcare providers – compared the COVID records of 94,728 children vaccinated by Pfizer and the same number of unvaccinated children. . The researchers found that during the two weeks following the start of the second dose, the children had 51% protection against infection and 48% against infection with symptoms.

COVID cases in Israel are on the rise again, with more than 11,000 new cases confirmed on Wednesday, more than 30% of all those tested. While Health Ministry officials have recommended a voluntary return to masking in indoor spaces, officials have been reluctant to consider bringing back any COVID-era restrictions.

There are currently 296 COVID patients who are hospitalized in serious condition, up from 219 a week ago and 136 two weeks ago.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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