Children between the ages of 12 and 15 should receive a third booster vaccine against the coronavirus, a panel of experts advising the Ministry of Health on the vaccination policy against COVID-19 is reported to have recommended on Sunday.
A clear majority among panelists reportedly supported the idea at a meeting, according to Hebrew-language media.
The boosters will be given five months after the second injection of the vaccine.
The experts’ opinion was based on information about the reduced effectiveness of the vaccine in adolescents aged 16 to 19 who had only received the first two injections, according to the reports. Booster shots are already recommended for all people aged 16 and over, a then pioneering policy that Israel was the first country in the world to adopt.
No decision has been made whether teens between the ages of 12 and 15 will need to have the third reminder in order to keep their Green Pass, a vaccination certificate that grants access to public places, Channel 12 News reported. Right now, all Israelis over 16 may need to get all three injections in order to keep a valid green pass.
In addition, experts have recommended that there be a three-week wait between the first and second injections given to children aged 5 to 11, as recommended by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
The measures still require formal approval from the Ministry of Health.
On Sunday evening, ministers decided that there would no longer be restrictions on events during the upcoming Hanukkah festival, although they will be held in accordance with Green Pass regulations. The consumption of food and drinks will be discouraged during performances to facilitate the wearing of the mask.
In addition, mobile vaccination units will be set up during certain performances, as part of the vaccination campaign for children, the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement.
The developments came as Israel prepared to launch a vaccination campaign for children aged 5 to 11 on Tuesday.
With the arrival this weekend of about a million pediatric doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, HMOs across the country have started scheduling appointments.
More than 10,000 parents booked slots with the four Israeli health providers over a period of just two hours in the evening, Channel 12 News reported.
There are approximately 1,000,000 children in the target age group.
The Meuhedet HMO has announced the establishment of a mobile vaccination center in Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv where parents can bring their children to be vaccinated as of Monday, and without an appointment.
Figures show that nearly half of the new COVID-19 infections detected over the past week have been found in children under the age of 12, according to Channel 12.
Of the 3,180 new cases, 48% were children in that age group, the station reported.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned that Israel was on the brink of a wave of infections among children.
However, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, speaking to Channel 12, reassured the public that the country is not entering a large fifth wave of COVID-19 cases, despite concerns that the reproduction number of the virus has climbed to 1.02 in recent days.
Known as the “R-number,” the number represents the number of people infected on average by each confirmed patient. Any number greater than 1 means the infection is spreading.
“I don’t see this as the start of a fifth wave,” Horowitz told the station, while reiterating the importance of vaccination, noting that the virus can cause serious illness in some children, as well as the effects long-term potential secondary.
Officials fear that many parents are very reluctant to have their children immunized. The government is committed to being open and transparent with all information on children’s vaccines in order to reassure parents.
Speaking to public broadcaster Kan on Sunday morning, Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public services at the Ministry of Health, estimated that “about half” of parents currently do not want their children to be vaccinated.
“It makes sense that part of the population is undecided and wants more data,” she said.
On Saturday, a shipment of around one million doses of the vaccine was shipped from Leipzig in Germany and landed at Ben-Gurion Airport. It was then taken to Israel’s central distribution point in the city of Modiin. From there, doses are to be sent to vaccination centers across the country, with vaccinations to be administered starting Tuesday.
Pfizer-BioNTech injections for children, each barely one-third the size of adult doses, are packaged differently from adult doses to avoid confusion.
Israel’s approval of the vaccine for children came days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted vaccine approval for the 5-11 age group.
So far, more than 2.6 million children in the United States have been vaccinated, which means about 10% of children there have now received their first dose.