Israel's Ministry of Health plans to extend its vaccination campaign to include 12 to 15 year olds even before FDA approval is issued for the injection on that age group, according to a Channel 12 report.
Israel will likely approve the vaccine for its younger population as soon as Pfizer releases preliminary results of its safety studies on children - and before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the drug - leading the way yet again in the global rollout of the anti-COVID-19 shot.
The vaccine is currently approved for emergency use only by the FDA and restricted to ages 16 and up.
This is not terribly surprising if you've been following the news these past few months. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week he planned that children, starting from age 12, would all be vaccinated by June. And as early as January, Israel's coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash predicted that vaccines would be approved and rolled out for children as early as March.
“The fact that children under the age of 16 are not currently getting vaccinated is certainly troubling, in terms of the ability to achieve herd immunity,” he said at the time. “I reckon that, in another month or two, there will be another cohort — the aged-12 and higher — that we can vaccinate.”
Israel has already preempted other nations and world health organizations by becoming the first country to approve - and even encourage - pregnant women to take the vaccine.
Nearly 90% of Israeli adults have been given at least one of the two vaccine doses since the nation's warp-speed campaign began over two months ago, or else have recovered from the coronavirus.
Israel has also began rolling out its green pass system, whereby access to certain public venues is limited to citizens with proof of full immunization. The passes – also known as passports – expire after six months, but Netanyahu has already ordered 36 million additional vaccines for Israel's population of 9.3 million, he said earlier this week, and plans for booster shots twice a year.
Some high school students have been barred from returning to school, taking matriculation exams and getting driving lessons if they have not been vaccinated.
Channel 12 reported on Thursday that as soon as data from Pfizer's safety trials on children from age 12 is completed, Israel will likely approve the vaccine for all youth.
“Committee members told us that they will not wait for the end of the experiment to determine its effectiveness and emphasize that the assumption is that the vaccine is effective,” Channel 12 said. “This means that once preliminary results regarding the safety of the vaccine for children are completed, this will be sufficient for the Vaccine Prioritization Committee.”
Some 200 Israeli children from 12 to 15 received exemptions and have already been vaccinated. No side effects were reported among these 200 children who were already vaccinated, Channel 12 said, which may tip the scales in favor of a quick approval.
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS