Hundreds of children between the ages of 12 and 16 who received the Pfizer / BioNtech vaccine in Israel did not experience serious side effects, a senior official told The Guardian, one of the first signs that Covid-19 inoculations could be safe for minors. before the results of the clinical trial.
Israel’s Health Ministry has recommended vaccinating some teens if they suffer from underlying conditions that make them vulnerable to the coronavirus.
“So far we have immunized about 600 children,” Boaz Lev, head of the vaccine working group, said Wednesday. “We didn’t see any major side effects; even the minor ones are quite rare. This is encouraging. “
The children, some of whom have cystic fibrosis, which affects the lungs, were not part of a clinical trial.
Pfizer is conducting a study of children ages 12 to 15 and hopes to start another one for children ages 5 to 11. The University of Oxford has also announced a trial for test your Covid-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca in children under six years of age. Those studies are expected to last several months.
Accelerating with its vaccination campaign, Israel is approaching a significant moment in the pandemic that other governments will likely take months to reach: the decision on whether to start inoculating children en masse.
More than half of Israelis have received at least one coronavirus vaccine, and officials expect that around 60% of the population will have been fully inoculated within weeks.
That’s the rough estimate epidemiologists have offered for when a country might begin to experience herd immunity, the point at which social resistance to the disease will cause it to vanish on its own, unable to easily jump from one body to another.
However, as the pandemic has progressed and with the emergence of more transmissible variants of the virus, scientists have been forced to rethink. Anthony Fauci, America’s foremost infectious disease expert, has said that he believes about 90% immunity might be needed.
For Israel, a small country of 9 million, that presents an undeniable problem. A quarter of the people are under the age of 16, the recommended minimum age for the Pfizer jab that Israel is administering. The country’s coronavirus “czar” Nachman Ash has said that the ineligibility of those under 16 is “concerning, in terms of the ability to achieve herd immunity.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel will complete its vaccination campaign for adults in early April.
“Then vaccines for children will start to arrive,” Netanyahu told a local newspaper. Israel Hayom. “I assume that [regulators] We will approve them in April and May and we will obtain them immediately afterwards ”, he added.
Oliver Geffen, an Israeli epidemiologist who has worked for Imperial College London and Public Health England, said the notion of herd immunity to new variants of the virus was “a bit of a moving target.” What really mattered, he said, was reducing the number of serious cases.
“Vaccinating children can lead to herd immunity, but if the policy goal is continued suppression of severe disease, other non-pharmaceutical interventions will be needed for some time,” he added, citing high levels of evidence and restricting meetings. massive.
Several scientists have called for a rethink in that regard, arguing that vaccines should be seen as a method to reduce hospitalizations and deaths rather than herd immunity, which some suggest may be an impossibility in the face of new variants.
Israel has seen a marked decline in severe cases, but its infection rates, while declining, have not plummeted. For now, the government intends to prioritize people over 50, who are much more likely to become seriously ill.
However, whether the children will be vaccinated or not, the question remains as to whether their parents or guardians will agree.
An Israeli television channel commissioned a survey last month which found that only 41% of parents intended to vaccinate their children. The survey, conducted by the Rushinek research institute, found that 29% of parents did not plan to vaccinate their children ages six to 15, and 30% were unsure.
Children are considered to be at low risk of developing serious complications from the disease. However, health officials warned that the British variant has led to a worrisome spike in infections among children and young people, and vaccines could help.
Lev said that when children are eligible to be vaccinated, the ministry should launch a campaign to disseminate accurate safety information, as there could be reluctance.
He added: “At this point, it is very difficult to see what will happen in that regard.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism