Israeli Panel to Wait for Omicron Data Before Advising Vaccinating Recovered Kids Against COVID

The Health Ministry has not been blocking children who have recovered from COVID at least three months prior from getting the vaccine, even though the committee has not made a recommendation yet

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A child receives a COVID vaccine in Kfar Sava, in November.
A child receives a COVID vaccine in Kfar Sava, in November.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

The vaccinations committee decided on Tuesday to postpone a decision on inoculating five- to 11-year-olds who have recovered from the coronavirus, instead waiting for more data on the omicron variant.

The panel, however, said that parents are permitted to vaccinate their children if three months have elapsed since their recovery, in line with earlier comments from the Health Ministry. This came after the Walla news website reported that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett got his 9-year-old son, who has recovered from COVID, his vaccine.

The discussions were spurred by a need to bolster the country's overall immunity amid the growing threat of an omicron wave. Given that children's immune systems typically have a stronger response against the coronavirus, and that their symptoms are generally milder, a recommendation for a third vaccine dose was not guaranteed.

However, there is growing evidence, including from trials in pediatric clinics, pointing to declining antibodies among the age group.

Additionally, the experts also recommended that parents of children between the ages of six months and five years be allowed to vaccinate their kids based on committee approval. The recommendation refers to children who are suffering from an underlying condition which puts them at great risk of serious illness.

There are over 220,000 five- to 11-year-olds in Israel who have contracted the coronavirus. Since the vaccination drive for the age group began, about 92,000 children in that age group have received their first shot, which constitutes 10 micrograms of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as opposed to the 30 micrograms adults receive.

First seeds of fourth dose

In the discussion, the question of a fourth dose of the vaccine to people who are immunocompromised was also raised, following a recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that adults with suppressed immune systems may need an additional dose six months after receiving their third shot.

In the meeting, data was presented demonstrating that certain groups of immunocompromised people did not develop an immune response after three jabs, meaning there is no benefit in providing an additional dose. The committee decided to formulate vaccination guidelines for groups of immunocompromised people whose immunity could be strengthened by a fourth jab

In about two weeks, five months will have passed since immunocompromised people received their third dose. The drive to vaccinate them once more began after many were found to have a very low number of antibodies or no antibodies at all following previous inoculations.

As of now, no official data has been released proving that their antibodies have once again reduced, but Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of Sheba Medical Center’s infectious diseases and epidemiology unit, told Haaretz that "The booster helps, but it helps a lot less for immunocompromised patients."

According to a study conducted at Sheba and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the chance that a person with a suppressed immune system's antibodies will fall to zero six months after being inoculated is 50 percent among men aged 65 and older, and about 30 percent for women of the same age. For 45- to 65-year-old men, the chances are 44 percent, and for immunocompromised women in that age group, 28 percent.     

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