Over the past two weeks, some 500 children in Israel aged 5-11 have received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Thus far, no abnormal side effects have been documented. Some of the national health funds in the country have reported no side effects whatsoever.
Although the data was still only initial and incomplete, it seems to coincide with the initial findings relating to side effects among 12-15-year-olds, who have already received special authorization to vaccinate prior to others in their age group because of severe pre-existing medical conditions.
Israel began administering vaccines to the 5-11-year-olds in early August under special approval from the Health Ministry, mainly to children suffering from significant prior conditions, such as respiratory diseases, severe obesity, cancer, cardiomyopathy and immunodeficiency.
According to the Health Ministry, any final decision on the matter belongs to the child’s parents, although the child has to be made aware of all the considerations and it must be documented. All four national health funds will monitor the children following the first jab, and all are slated to receive a second dose.
Dr. Roni Farber, Director of Public Health, Nursing Division at the Meuhedet health fund, told Yisrael Hayom that all of the nearly 20 high-risk children who received the first dose at Meuhedet clinics showed “no significant side effects, aside for minor pain or light redness in the area of the jab.”
“Although this is a non-representative sample, it’s still good news,” said Farber.
In the wake of these early findings, meanwhile, senior public health officials in the country have begun discussing the matter, with some even calling for the Health Ministry to immediately authorize vaccinating children even though a Pfizer study currently underway is still unfinished and before the Food and Drug Admiration has approved it.
Prof. Eli Sprecher, Deputy Director of Research and Development at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, said he was in “favor of approving vaccines for 5-11-year-olds in Israel as soon as possible, but I suggest waiting for Pfizer to publish the findings of its studies in the next two to three weeks, and without the need to wait for FDA approval.”
If the pharmaceutical companies delay publishing their findings beyond a few weeks, said Sprecher, “then we can approve it in Israel without waiting for them. There’s no reason to assume that children will experience side effects that are any different than those we’ve already seen, and around the world many children aged 12 and up who have already received the vaccine have shown no disconcerting signs, rather the opposite. Vaccinating children will reduce morbidity and prevent harm to the children, even if this doesn’t apply to many of them, who do suffer greatly due to the coronavirus.”
Prof. Yehuda Adler, a cardiology expert and coronavirus adviser to several municipalities, believes approval to vaccinate children should be given right now, mainly in light of the fast-approaching new school year.
“Around the world, we are witnessing rising morbidity among children because of the Delta variant, and schools are also a source of infection,” he said.
“It makes sense to [approve these vaccinations] due to the Delta variant’s speedy infection rate from children to adults as well, and particularly in light of the absence of notable side effects among 12-15-year-olds,” said Adler.
However, Prof. Masad Barhoum, General Director of the Galilee Medical Center, was more cautious. “Vaccinating children is something that needs to be examined differently compared to the considerations pertaining to vaccinating adults,” he said, adding that Israel should wait for FDA approval and for the ongoing studies to produce findings.
“The data thus far, whereby 500 children who were vaccinated in Israel didn’t suffer from side effects, certainly appears encouraging and points to relative safety, but we still need additional data to understand the broad numeric picture.
“In my estimation, all children will be vaccinated in the future, but before that decision is made, there must be as broad a data basis as possible,” Barhoum said.