Israel may include children over the age of 12 in groups receiving COVID-19 vaccines within the next two months if research shows this is safe, coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash said Tuesday.
Vaccinating at a world-record pace, Israel says it aims to have administered one or both shots to 5 million of its 9 million citizens, and reopen the economy, by mid-March.
Elderly Israelis and adults with medical conditions or jobs in critical high-risk sectors have been given priority. But with Israeli officials anticipating more regular vaccine shipments, the eligibility categories have been expanded.
Ash predicted that pharmacological research would establish that the minimum age threshold for the vaccines could be safely lowered from 16 to 12, and FDA approval for such use secured, by March.
"The fact that children under the age of 16 are not currently getting vaccinated is certainly troubling, in terms of the ability to achieve herd immunity," he told 103 FM radio.
"I reckon that, in another month or two, there will be another cohort - the aged-12 and higher - that we can vaccinate."
Around 7.75% of Israel's population are between the ages of 12 and 16, according to Central Bureau of Statistics data.
Israel on Sunday took delivery of a mass shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, allowing the national vaccination campaign to pick up pace once again.
The Health Ministry said Monday that from the following day, vaccinations would be available to Israelis over the age of 55.
The ministry said Tuesday that 1.85 million Israelis have so far received the first dose of the two-stage vaccination, making it the global leader in coronavirus inoculations per capita.
The country began administering the second dose to those eligible on Saturday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein already receiving the booster shot given three weeks after the first.
Netanyahu said last week he believes the majority of Israelis will be able to get vaccinated by March.