Israel's COVID-19 infection rate known as the R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – rose to 1.04, according to Health Ministry data, indicating that the pandemic stopped shrinking after a long downward trend.
On Sunday, 452 new COVID-19 cases were reported, a lower number than last week's figures. Health experts now fear that the decrease in daily cases will be reversed. The number of seriously ill patients currently stands at 131, including 80 on ventilators.
An Israeli government advisory committee recommended Sunday that children between the ages of 12 and 15 be given coronavirus vaccine booster shots.
The recommendation is based on studies conducted on adults rather than the 12 to 15 age group, which showed that the protection afforded by the second dose wanes after six months.
COVID booster shots are currently available to Israelis 16 or older.
Among adults, it has been shown that the protection offered by the second dose wanes to very low levels after about six months. Children in the 12 to 15 age group began getting vaccinated in late June, so they are rapidly approaching six months since their second doses.
The Israeli advisory panel further recommended that children between 5 and 11 receive their first and second doses three weeks apart, as adults have. This comes after the Health Ministry approved administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to children on Sunday, a decision that will take effect on Tuesday. Since a large proportion of cases of the virus in Israel are occurring among this age group, the panel said it is preferable that they be fully vaccinated as soon as possible rather than extending the two doses over a longer interval.
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the cabinet on Sunday that Israel is "on the brink of what appears to be a wave of coronavirus infections among children” and noted that "we have 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” as well.
On Saturday, the prime minister noted that infections among children represented 49 percent of all new cases. He urged parents to vaccinate their children and noted that the vaccine for children has already arrived in the country.
Bennett also added that he expects the coronavirus pandemic to continue for "another year or two," emphasizing the importance of giving booster shots to those who have already been vaccinated before vaccinating the rest of the population. The coronavirus cabinet is expected to convene Monday to discuss the rising R number.