Support for vaccinating children against COVID among Israelis parents aged 25-44 lags significantly behind the rest of the population, despite members of this age group being among the most likely to have small children.
According to a recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, only 47 percent of 25-34-year-olds and 46 percent of 35-44-year-olds believe that children aged 5-11 should receive the Pfizer vaccine, significantly less than the 56 percent support for inoculation among the general population.
“An especially interesting finding, which reflects the public controversy, emerged from a segmentation of the interviewees of the entire sample by age: among the interviewees aged 25-44—an age group with, of course, a large number of parents of children at the relevant ages—fewer supported vaccinating children against COVID than in the other groups,” IDI stated in its monthly Israeli Voice Index for November 2021.
The Jerusalem-based think tank polled over 760 Hebrew and Arabic speakers from November 29 to December 1, 2021.
Overall, 29 percent of Israelis think that children should be vaccinated, and 27 percent are sure that they should be. 18 percent do not think that children should be vaccinated and 14.5 percent are sure they should not. 11.5 percent are not sure either way.
Support for vaccinating children appears to rise with age, with 56 percent of 45-54-year-olds, 63 percent of 55-64-year-olds and 73 percent of those over age 65 voicing approval. Younger people in their late teens and early 20s also supported childhood vaccination at a higher rate than 25-44-year olds, with 58 percent voicing approval.
The survey also found that women support childhood vaccination at a higher rate than men (61 percent vs. 51 percent) and that secular Jews, at 65 percent, are more supportive than their more religiously observant counterparts. Those on the left (67 percent) were also more likely to support childhood vaccination than those in the center (62 percent) and the right (52 percent).
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Overall, IDI stated, “we found that the majority supports vaccinating children, without a significant difference between Jews and Arabs.”
A separate poll conducted at the beginning of October by Liora Shmueli of Bar-Ilan University, found that among 894 parents of Israeli children aged 5 to 11, 57 percent expressed willingness to vaccinate their kids against the coronavirus this coming winter if the vaccine is approved and available.
Since Israel authorized the vaccine for five- to 11-year-olds three weeks ago, just 110,000 have received the jab out of a possible 1.2 million. According to the ministry’s online data dashboard, 99.95 percent of children in this age cohort are currently unvaccinated. From Sunday morning, Israel also permitted the administration of vaccines in schools.
Addressing the cabinet in November, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has previously dubbed the current spread of COVID in the country a “children’s wave,” called on parents to vaccinate their children, stating that people need to “go out and take advantage of these precious days” because “we will not succeed in forever delaying omicron.”
Speaking with Haaretz late last month, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, Israel’s top public health expert, called unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals, including children, the primary vector for the spread of the virus, stating that low childhood vaccination rates could contribute to the virus’ spread.
However, she stressed that child vaccinations are first and foremost in order to protect the children themselves, noting that although COVID-19 is more dangerous to adults, it can also cause health complications and long-term symptoms in the young.
Vaccinating children is “not important for Israel – it’s important for the kids. We’re not vaccinating the kids to control the pandemic,” she stressed, complaining that “there is a lot of fake news that COVID-19 is not a childhood disease.”
While children who contract the virus are much less likely to experience severe illness or hospitalization than adults during the disease’s acute phase, they are still at risk of contracting Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome (PIMS) or developing health problems down the line.
Around 2 percent of younger children have experienced long COVID, while the incidence rises to 4.6 percent among those over age 12, she said.
But even if long COVID only affects 1 percent of Israeli children, it could mean that thousands are at risk of long-term health issues, she warned.
“What’s scary for me is what will happen 10 years from now,” she said, noting that some viruses can cause severe illness even after years of asymptomatic infection. “We don’t know enough about COVID to say this is nothing."
“There is a very big question mark about what will happen 10 or 20 years from now,” she said.