COVID in Israel: Children's Vaccination Panel to Be Open to the Public as Fourth Wave Wanes

Israel sees a day with zero COVID deaths for the first time in nearly four months

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A health care worker prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine in Jerusalem, in August.
A health care worker prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine in Jerusalem, in August. Credit: Emil Salman
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

For the first time, Israel's pandemic response team will broadcast one of its discussions to the public next week, regarding the vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 for COVID, the Health Ministry announced Friday.

The team decided to air the discussion following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recommendation of the vaccine for that age group, in order to present information live to the public before making their own recommendation to the Health Ministry on the matter.

The audience will be able to pose questions to the expert panel as well, "as part of a transparent process," the announcement said. It added that speakers will be chosen at random, but will represent different concerns – such as the vaccine's safety and effectiveness – as well as varied positions on the subject, including vaccine hesitancy.

As vaccination efforts continue, Israel's coronavirus figures continue to steadily drop. On Thursday, the country saw zero COVID deaths for the first time since July. Moreover, 651 people were diagnosed with the disease, 491 of whom were completely unvaccinated. Less than 1 percent of coronavirus tests came back positive.

As of Friday, Israel also has its lowest number of serious COVID cases since August. There are currently 227 coronavirus patients in serious condition, of whom 153 are in critical condition and 133 are on ventilators.

Of the patients in serious condition, 175 have not been vaccinated at all; only 27 of patients currently in serious condition are considered fully vaccinated and 17 have not received a third dose or had been vaccinated more than six months ago.

There are also no cities designated as "red," or experiencing a particularly high infection rate, according to Israel's so-called traffic light system. The R number – the number of people each COVID carrier infects – remains steadily at 0.73, and has been below one since September, a sign that the pandemic is receding.

On Monday, Israel will open its borders to fully vaccinated tourists. In a letter outlining its view on how to handle tourists who break public health rules, the ministry recommended that foreigners arriving in Israel without meeting the criteria for entry be deported to their countries of origin. It also instructed the Population and Immigration Authority “to consider imposing a sanction on entry to Israel” in such cases.

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