Israel says children aged five to eleven eligible for coronavirus vaccination

Children wearing face masks attend a class as students return to school after the summer break, less than a month into a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine booster drive, at Arazim Elementary School in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Israel said on Sunday that children aged five to 11 would be eligible for vaccination against COVID-19, and that a starting date for the campaign would be made public within days.

The decision, announced by the Health Ministry, followed approval by its expert panel on vaccinations last week, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use of Pfizer’s and BioNTech’s vaccine for the age group at a 10-microgram dose.

The original shot given to those aged 12 and older is 30 micrograms. Pfizer and BioNTech have said their vaccine showed 90.7% efficacy against the coronavirus in a clinical trial of children aged five to 11.

In a statement, the ministry said a starting date for five-to-11 year-olds to begin receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine would be set within days.

“The majority of experts on the committee were of the opinion that the benefit of vaccinating this age group outweighed any risk,” the statement said.

Israel’s 9.4 million population is relatively young, with around 1.2 million children in the five-to-11 age group. Health officials have been doubtful the country could reach “herd immunity” unless those children were vaccinated.

An opinion poll in Israel last week showed that 27% of parents would allow their children under the age of 12 to receive the vaccine, with 33% opposed and 40% undecided.

Four million Israelis have taken booster shots, which in August were approved for anyone who had their second Pfizer jab at least five months earlier.

Adopting a “Living with COVID strategy,” the government kept schools and the economy largely open during a fourth wave of infections, while hoping to beat back the pandemic with booster shots, mandated mask-wearing and a “Green Pass” system of digital certification.

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