The Health Ministry announced Wednesday that starting next week, it will begin vaccinating children aged 12-16 against coronavirus.
The move followed several weeks of consultations with experts after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization to give the relevant age group the Pfizer vaccine used in Israel.
Though an official date has not yet been given, Maccabi and Clalit HMOs announced they will begin inoculations on Sunday, with people able to book an appointment starting Thursday.
The ministry said that in light of the country's low infection rates, children in that age group who are at risk from the virus will be the first advised to get the shots, along with those living with family members who are likewise at risk of serious illness.
Families who are planning to travel abroad will also be included in the first round of vaccinations, alongside anyone else who wants to vaccinate their children.
The ministry said that vaccination would not be compulsory for the age group and parents will be able to decide if they want their children to get the shots.
Earlier Wednesday it was announced that Home Front Command has ceased operating coronavirus testing centers due to the low infection rate in the country.
The ministry said that from now on, COVID tests would only be performed at HMO clinics and only for symptomatic patients or those who had come into contact with verified carriers.
On Tuesday, a Health Ministry study found a small number of heart inflammation cases in males under the age of 30 after the second Pfizer vaccine shot.
In Israel, 275 cases of myocarditis were reported between December 2020 and May 2021 among more than 5 million vaccinated people, the ministry said in disclosing the findings of a study it commissioned to examine the matter.
Most patients who experienced heart inflammation spent no more than four days in hospital and 95% of the cases were classified as mild, according to the study, which the ministry said was conducted by three teams of experts.
The study found "there is a probable link between receiving the second dose (of Pfizer) vaccine and the appearance of myocarditis among men aged 16 to 30," it said in a statement.
Pfizer has said it has not observed a higher rate of the condition than would normally be expected in the general population.
Israel has been a world leader in its vaccination rollout.
With COVID-19 infections down to just a handful a day and total active cases at just 340 across the country, the economy has fully opened, though restrictions remain on incoming tourism.
Some 55% of Israel's population has already been vaccinated. As of Tuesday, restrictions on social distancing and the need for special green vaccination passes to enter certain restaurants and venues were scrapped.
First published: 18:24 , 06.02.21