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The race to 1 million: Young children vax campaign to officially begin Tuesday amid the ‘children’s wave’ of COVID

Injections of children ages 5-11 coincides with almost half of new cases in Israel identified from this age range

An Israeli child under 11 gets the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Modi'in, Nov. 22, 2021. (Photo: Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

On Tuesday, Israel’s campaign to vaccinate 5- to 11-year-old children will begin led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett himself who will bring his son David to get the Pfizer shot for children, a downsized version of the injection for adults.

“These vaccines have already been administered to millions of children around the world, especially in the U.S. The vaccines are safe and effective for safeguarding our children’s health,” Bennett said. “As I have already said, my son David will be one of the first to be vaccinated, and I expect the same of all Israeli parents, certainly cabinet ministers, who have children or grandchildren of the relevant age.”

A million doses of a child-sized vaccine arrived in Israel on Saturday, enough to cover the population in that age demographic. So far, 24,000 children have already booked appointments for their shots, even though walk-ins are welcome at many clinics and mobile vaccination units.

This comes as the prime minister declared that Israel has entered a “children’s wave” of the COVID-19 pandemic. The reproduction rate went above 1 earlier this week –which indicates infection is spreading – with some 49% of the new cases identified in children 11 and under.

Pfizer’s child dose is 10 mg. instead of the 30 mg. for adults. It also contains an additive that will give the vaccines a longer shelf life. “Tromethamine” will allow the thawed vaccine to last for a month and bypass the need for refrigeration at extremely low temperatures.

The substance is also used to stabilize people suffering from heart attacks, which had prompted a furor about whether it was added in order to counter potential side effects. Some cases of myocarditis and pericarditis – both potentially life-threatening heart issues – have cropped up in recipients of both of the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, as well as COVID patients, according to Israeli doctors.

Even though the campaign begins officially on Tuesday, 500 children in this bracket already received the shot on Monday. Two of the first children to be televised were 7-year-old twins who appeared on primetime news on Monday evening as they received their shots.

Children's characters dressed in costumes stood outside mobile vaccination units and invited children to get vaccinated on Monday afternoon.

The campaign kicks off a few days before the winter Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which begins on Nov. 28. Children have the week off from school and festive events take place around the country, which health officials fear could lead to an outbreak.

But holding true to its method of handling the pandemic, Bennett's government is avoiding a holiday shutdown which was a hallmark of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Instead, the Cabinet hopes to use the opportunity to set up vaccination booths at the entrance of children’s events.

Bennett also said that the approach to vaccinating children will be “soft persuasion” and transparency.

“I know there is a certain sensitivity around this matter. There are a lot of people who are afraid to vaccinate children, and they are not necessarily ‘anti-vaxxers’ or those who buy into conspiracy theories,” Bennett wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. “My answer to these concerns: Total transparency. We will reveal all the… scientific information to you, the parents – and you will make a decision.”

Meanwhile, a Ministry of Health panel recommended giving a booster shot for children ages 12 to 15 at five months after their first round. The panel did not say whether their Green Passport – a vaccination certificate that grants access to public venues – will be contingent upon receiving a booster. For all other Israelis ages 16 and up, their latest vaccination or recovery from COVID must be within six months in order to maintain their Green Passport.

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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