Tel-Aviv: Israel hopes to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to children aged 12 to 15 from May, after a study showed its effectiveness for the age group.
Israel has already given the two recommended shots of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine to more than half of its 9.3 million inhabitants, the world’s fastest pace per capita.
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It offers vaccinations to all residents aged 16 and over, the group currently approved to receive the vaccine.
But Pfizer-BioNTech said Wednesday its vaccine shows 100 percent effectiveness against the coronavirus in 12- to 15-year-olds, and plans to submit the age group data to U.S. regulators for approval.
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Hezi Levy, director general of the Ministry of Health, spoke to Israel’s army radio on Thursday and said the ministry wants to start vaccinating under 16s in May.
“We are seeing an increase in the number of children being admitted to the hospital, and we are seeing children without symptoms but suffering from complications,” Levy said.
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“The risk of the vaccine is much lower.”
The head of Israel’s pandemic response task force, Nachman Ash, told Kan radio that health officials are waiting for the US Food and Drug Administration to extend its approval to the lower age group.
After FDA approval, it will be discussed by Israel’s vaccination team before vaccination of adolescents begins, Ash said.
“I think it will take a few more weeks,” he said.
The successful vaccination of Israel was ensured by a data-sharing agreement with Pfizer, which agreed to give the Jewish state a solid supply of vaccine in exchange for quick information about the impact of the product.
In a real-world study involving 1.2 million people in Israel, the vaccine was found to be 94 percent effective.
Serious COVID-19 cases and daily infections both fell due to the vaccination, but Israel recorded several new cases among those who were not vaccinated.
The results of Phase 3 trials released Wednesday on 2,260 adolescents in the U.S. showed 100 percent effectiveness and robust antibody responses, Pfizer and BioNTech said in a statement.
The companies began investigating children last week, and the first group of five to 11-year-olds received the vaccine.
A younger group of two to five-year-olds is expected to receive their first dose in the study next week, which will also cover children as young as six months old.