Israel plans to give adolescents the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine as soon as its emergency use is authorized in the U.S., Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Wednesday.
The pharma giant said earlier their COVID-19 vaccine was safe and effective and produced robust antibody responses in 12- to 15-year olds, paving the way for them to seek FDA approval.
Vaccinating at a world-beating pace, Israel has already given both Pfizer doses to more than half of its 9.3 million citizens and residents, and seen an accompanying fall in sickness.
In addition, the country's health funds have approved giving the vaccine to some 450 children aged 12-15 since the start of the vaccination drive due to them or one of their close family members suffering from severe preexisting conditions.
Longer-term vaccine purchases have snagged, however, on a dispute within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet, which Edelstein pledged to resolve on Tuesday, saying, "God willing, we will continue to be a global model of success."
"The Pfizer announcement is terrific news," he said over social media on Wednesday. "There is nothing more in order now than a speedy approval of more vaccine procurements (by Israel), so we can be poised to vaccinate immediately upon FDA approval."
Israel has come under international criticism for not doing more to enable Palestinians to be inoculated, while its national vaccination drive has been one of the fastest and most efficient in the world.
It says it has vaccinated more than 100,000 Palestinian workers with permits to enter the country or Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but that the Palestinian Authority bears overall responsibility for inoculations in self-rule areas, according to the Oslo Accords.
Pfizer's vaccine is already authorized for use in people starting at age 16. The new study offers the first evidence of how the vaccine will also work in school-age adolescents.
In the trial of 2,260 adolescents aged 12 to 15, there were 18 cases of COVID-19 in the group that got a placebo shot and none in the group that got the vaccine, resulting in 100% efficacy in preventing COVID-19, the companies said in a statement.
Albert Bourla, Pfizer's chairman and chief executive, said the company planned to seek emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration "in the coming weeks and to other regulators around the world, with the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year."