Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the cabinet on Sunday that Israel "at the brink of what seems to be a wave of coronavirus infections among children,” but insisted that the rise in infection rate would not prompt new restrictions at this stage.
Ahead of the vaccine drive for kids aged 5 to 11 on Tuesday, Bennett urged parents to vaccinate their children against the coronavirus. “In recent days we’ve been witness to a very serious wave of infections afflicting many parts of Europe, with some increase in the rate of infection here in Israel,” said Bennett.
Clalit, one of Israel's Health Maintenance Organizations, began scheduling appointments for the vaccination drive on Sunday, reaching over 500,000 kids in the age group from 110 locations. Another major health organization, Maccabi, also started registering people for appointments on Sunday, noting that 245,000 children are eligible for the vaccine through its clinics.
On Saturday, the prime minister noted that 49 percent of new cases come from children and urged parents to vaccinate their kids.
Bennett added that vaccines for children had already arrived in Israel. “These are special vaccines designed for children, containing one third of the dosage given to adults. They are safe and effective in terms of keeping our children healthy,” he said.
According to Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the Health Ministry's head of Public Health Services, 40 to 50 percent of parents of children between the ages of 5 to 11 are planning to vaccine their kids.
Alroy-Preis added that the coronavirus affects children, too. “It’s true that it harms adults more, but it can cause serious illness in children as well, causing harm during the infection itself, but also later, with attendant side effects,” said Alroy-Preis in a radio interview.
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She explained that the rise in R number, representing the amount of people each carrier infects, which reached 1.02 on Saturday, stemmed from infections among Israel's unvaccinated population. There are currently 670,00 people who are eligible for the vaccine but who have not yet received one, with a further one million who have not received their third dose. These numbers do not include children under the age of 12 who have not yet been vaccinated.
According to Alroy-Preis, 76 percent of the confirmed cases last week were people who were unvaccinated, while 12 percent were people who had not yet received their third dose.
Against the backdrop of an increasing number of infections in Europe, Alroy-Preis said that “we are monitoring a large number of variants, but we don’t see anything that causes concern. What’s happening in Europe is apparently a combination of the delta variant, which we’ve been experiencing here in Israel, and the dwindling effects of the vaccine.”
According to figures released Sunday morning, the number of seriously ill coronavirus patients remains relatively low at 131, of whom 89 are in critical condition and 80 are connected to ventilators.
The R number stands unchanged at 1.02, meaning the virus' transmission is growing, after hovering at around 0.7 for almost three weeks. In addition, 230 new cases were recorded on Saturday, with 0.81 percent of 31,358 tests performed returning positive results.