Israel to Rule on Vaccinating Children Ages 12 to 15 Next Week

Decision will be made after the release of findings on heart inflammation cases in COVID-19 vaccine recipients

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School students leaving school, in Jerusalem, last month.
School students leaving school, in Jerusalem, last month.Credit: Emil Salman

Israel will release next week its findings on heart inflammation cases in COVID-19 vaccine recipients and then decide whether to approve inoculations of youngsters aged 12-15, a senior health official said on Thursday.

Israel's Health Ministry said in April it was examining a small number of such cases among people who received Pfizer/BioNtech's vaccine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) made a similar statement earlier this month.

"We will release our final report which will say whether there really is a link to the vaccine and what the implications are," said Sharon Alroy-Preis, the ministry's head of public health.

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Once the report is made public next week, she told Army Radio, "we will issue the most responsible recommendation we can to Israelis, and of course, ultimately, it will be up to parents" to decide whether to vaccinate their children.

"I myself will vaccinate my 15-year-old son as soon as it is authorized," Alroy-Preis said.

Dror Mevorach, one of the experts on the investigating panel, said the inquiry includes comparisons of cases of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, among vaccinated patients with those who have not been inoculated as well as data from previous years, before the pandemic.

Mevorach, head of internal medicine at Jerusalem's Ein Karem Hadassah University Hospital, said most of the 20 myocarditis cases it has treated occurred among healthy males, with an average age of 22, one to four days after they received their second inoculation.

Mevorach, who is also in charge of the hospital's COVID-19 units, said nearly all patients diagnosed with heart inflammation had light symptoms and made a full recovery.

The Health Ministry has not yet said how many cases of myocarditis were detected in total among the more than 5 million people vaccinated in Israel. Israeli media reported the number was about 100.

Over half of Israel's population has been vaccinated in a rapid rollout. The number of new coronavirus cases, now averaging about 20 a day, has been dropping steadily even as the economy has opened and most restrictions have been lifted or eased.

The fact that the pandemic is no longer raging in Israel had changed the risk-benefit analysis in weighing whether to begin vaccinating youngsters, Mevorach said.

"At the moment, in the Israeli bubble, we are no longer in an emergency situation so we can take the time to probe deeply," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

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