As Israel may soon be moving to expand its highly successful COVID-19 vaccination rollout to include adolescents and children, a leading pediatrician recommended on Sunday parents should inoculate their children against the pathogen.
Speaking to Ynet in an interview, Israel Pediatric Association President Prof. Zachi Grossman has rejected the prevalent claim that children are largely not susceptible to the disease and therefore should not be vaccinated against it.
"Over the past year, over 1,000 children have been hospitalized, and almost 150 of them were in serious condition, half of them in the emergency room," Grossman said. "No parent would want to go through hospitalization with their child, especially not in the ER. Coronavirus is a tangible and immediate risk to each and every child."
"Although we're in a period of declining morbidity, we must remember that vaccinations are not limited to a certain time frame. If that were the case, one could have asked why we keep vaccinating against measles, polio, and dozens of other diseases although they're all at a low point."
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said back in March that the country plans to give adolescents the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine as soon as its emergency use is authorized in the U.S.
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.
Grossman also said he feared children could fall ill with the disease en masse in case it makes a resurgence and they remain unvaccinated.
"The moment a new variant arrives through Ben Gurion Airport, or a wave of coronavirus hits during the winter — the hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated children would be the first to get hurt. We don't want this to happen. We want the children to be protected as much as the adults are," he said. "We're also pretty calm about the safety of the vaccine unless the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) thinks otherwise. In the meantime, it seems that the shot is as safe in children as in adults."
"I remember the concerns five or six months ago, while we were waiting for the vaccine to be approved for adults. A large percentage of Israelis said they would not get vaccinated but sit on the fence and wait for others to get inoculated first. We hear the same tune again about vaccinating children. We have no doubt that once the FDA has its say and gives the green light to vaccinate children, the public's general attitude will be much more positive."
A recent survey conducted by one of Israel's four state-mandated health funds Meuhedet showed that parents mostly viewed vaccinating their children against COVID-19 favorably.
According to the study, over half of parents to adolescents between the ages of 12–16 intend to inoculate their children against the disease while only 13% said they won't vaccinate their children for various reasons, chief among them is fear for their health in the long run.
Some 70% of undecided parents said that studies proving the shot's safety and efficacy would help them make a decision. 68% of parents indicated that their pediatrician's recommendation would play a key role in their decision whether to vaccinate their children while 33% would prefer to wait and learn more about the vaccine first.
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.