Weeks after the United States did so, Israel’s Health Ministry has given its approval for children under 5 to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
But one politician made headlines this week after calling on anyone under 30 to run the other way from the COVID shots.
Moshe Feiglin, who is campaigning for a slot on the Likud ticket in the upcoming primaries and has not been vaccinated, said the shots are dangerous for children and that forcing them to get inoculated is a “heinous act.”
Feiglin did not get vaccinated because he is not in a “high-risk population” and has long spoken out against mandates which, in Israel, prevented people from entering schools, houses of worship, gyms and restaurants among other venues without a digital vaccine certificate or a negative COVID test.
“If someone under 65 wants to take it, he can,” Feiglin said. “But we should remove the pressure on all of Israel to coerce them – we should not make people feel bad if they choose not to vaccinate.”
The Ministry of Health slammed Feiglin saying it is “unfortunate that a man without any professional backing is handing out suggestions based on knee-jerk instincts or delusions while going directly against existing medical knowledge and international studies on the subject, not to mention the instructions of every international organization.”
This week, Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash approved giving the mRNA vaccines to children between 6 months to 5 years old, but did not make it an official recommendation. Last week, a health ministry advisory panel widely voted to recommend that high-risk babies and toddlers get the shot.
This comes as Israel is wading into a sixth coronavirus wave and showing high new daily infections – nearly 14,000 on Wednesday. The number of patients hospitalized in serious condition has also risen to 376 after it had gone down to almost 100.
Meanwhile, last week Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was hailed a “hero” for his company’s quick production of the vaccine and was awarded the 2022 Genesis Prize (the “Jewish Nobel”) for his efforts. Israel and Pfizer have been inextricably interconnected since the emergence of the vaccine. After former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered millions of doses of his company’s vaccine, Bourla called Israel Pfizer’s “lab,” since it was first to vaccinate in exchange for providing data.
But enthusiasm for the vaccine is waning – even in the mainstream media. A Wall Street Journal editorial questioned the “rushed FDA action” and noted that “for children, Covid isn’t an emergency.”
“Only 209 kids between 6 months and 4 years old have died from Covid – about 0.02% of all virus deaths in the U.S. About half as many toddlers were hospitalized with Covid between October 2020 and September 2021 as were hospitalized with the flu during the previous winter,” the editorial states.
But the article calls into question the results of the truncated testing of the shots.
“More troubling, vaccinated toddlers in Pfizer’s trial were more likely to get severely ill with Covid than those who received a placebo. Pfizer claimed most severe cases weren’t ‘clinically significant,’ whatever that means, but this was all the more reason that the FDA should have required a longer follow-up before authorizing the vaccine,” the editorial says. “Also worrisome: Most kids who developed multiple infections during the trial were vaccinated. This warranted more investigation, since experimental vaccines for other diseases sometimes increase susceptibility to infection.”
“The FDA brushed aside the risk that inoculating infants against a variant no longer circulating could blunt their immune responses to Omicron and its offshoots. There’s a reason vaccine trials usually take a decade. Some steps can be accelerated, but an extended follow-up is often necessary to ensure potential side effects aren’t overlooked.”
In Israel, it is unlikely that parents will rush to get the shots for their under 5 year olds. Only 25% of children 5 to 11 have received one dose and even less, 18%, have received two.
Nevertheless, the country is bracing itself against spreading infections. COVID czar Salman Zarka said on Wednesday that officials will consider making indoor masking mandatory again in the coming days.
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS