The Israeli Health Ministry announced on Wednesday evening its decision to approve coronavirus vaccines for children ages 5 to 11.
Members of an advisory panel of medical experts voted almost unamimously— 73 to 2—that the vaccine would be safe and authorities should go ahead with it.
The first shipments of the specialized vaccines are expected to arrive in Israel next week, according to media reports.
The voting was held by secret ballot, reflecting the tense conditions under which deliberations were held.
A first hearing on the subject was held last week and streamed live to give the public access to the relevant data, but a second session was held behind closed doors to protect participants from the threats and incitement that a number of health officials have experienced as a result of promoting inoculation against COVID.
The Israeli decision follows U.S. authorization of use of the Pfizer vaccine for the age group.
“It’s a very important decision for a very safe vaccine,” epidemiologist Prof. Nadav Davidovitch told The Times of Israel shortly after the announcement.
“We actually expect even lower levels of side effects, among other things due to lower dose and Pfizer study results, than seen among teenagers, so if we compare the alternative of natural infection we’re feeling quite confident about vaccines for kids.”
How the public will respond is another matter, however.
Davidovitch expects that the parents of just over 50 percent of kids will quickly agree to vaccinate, but many of the rest will hesitate.
Another vaccine expert, Jumanah Essa-Hadad, said that the child vaccination drive will prove “very challenging.”