Israel begins vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 against coronavirus

Israel began vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 against the coronavirus on Monday, becoming the only country other than the United States to do so.

While the vaccination campaign is scheduled to officially begin on Tuesday, several hundred children and their parents came to clinics across the country to receive their dose, which is much lower than that given to those 12 and older.

Israel Health Funds said that thousands of Israelis have already made appointments for coronavirus vaccines for their young children.

Hundreds of vaccination centers will be opened across the country and parents will be asked to report any reactions their children have had to health authorities.

Arriving at a Maccabi clinic in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat HaSharon, Gala Konstanta of Herzliya, 11, was first in line to receive the vaccine.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said, adding that the jab didn’t hurt and urged other kids to get theirs.

Shimon, Gala’s father, said there was no question that his daughter would receive the vaccine.

“The debate about whether to get the vaccine or not is taking place in many schools, including ours,” he said.

“I was abroad recently and I was very proud to be from Israel because of the vaccinations. This is why we wanted Gala to be vaccinated, to make sure she is protected and safe just like all adults.”

Shimon said there were concerns, but the fact that the jab was working reassured his decision.

“Children in the United States have already received the vaccine and we trust the Israeli health system, which has proven its effectiveness throughout the pandemic,” he said.

A fourth wave of infections that hit Israel in June began to subside in September. But over the past two weeks, the “R,” or the virus’s reproductive rate, which had stayed below one for two months, began to rise and has now crossed that threshold, indicating that the virus could return. to spread exponentially.

Daily cases have also risen in recent days, with half of the infections currently confirmed among children 11 and under.

The Ministry of Health estimates that one in 3,500 children infected with coronavirus will later develop multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) in which parts of the body become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, etc. the skin and gastrointestinal organs. Most children with the condition require intensive care treatment and 1-2% die.

Officials have also noted the risk of persistent symptoms, such as sleep disruption, muscle pain, loss of smell and taste, headaches and cough, commonly known as “Long Covid.”

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Health of more than 13,000 children showed that around 11% of them had suffered persistent symptoms, with 1.8% to 4.6%, depending on their age, six months after recovery.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday urged parents vaccinate their children, citing increased morbidity in Europe and concerns that a fifth wave of the pandemic may begin after the reproductive R number of the virus surpasses 1, a sign of a possible resurgent outbreak.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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