An Israeli government advisory committee recommended on Sunday evening 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.
The recommendation from the panel of experts will be submitted to Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash, who will make the final decision on extending the booster shot campaign to 12- to 15-year-olds.
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.
On Sunday, the Health Ministry approved administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to children 5 to 11 and as of Tuesday, children in that age group will be able to be vaccinated. The move follows approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of vaccinations for children in that age group.
The Israeli advisory panel recommended that children between 5 and 11 receive their first and second doses three weeks apart, as adults have. 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.
"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,” the prime minister said.
Following consultations on Sunday evening with Bennett, it was also decided that the traditional Hanukkah entertainment shows for children will be held this year as usual, subject to Green Pass restrictions. Show organizers will be required to scan the Green Pass barcode of everyone attending the shows and will also be required to boost the number of ushers staffing the events.