The Health Ministry's expert panel on Wednesday voted with an overwhelming majority in favor of administering Pfizer's and BioNTech's pediatric COVID-19 vaccines to children aged 5-11.
The panel will present their decision to Health Ministry Director General Prof. Nachman Ash, who will have the final decision on the move.
Panel chair Dr. Boaz Lev said in a press conference after the meeting that out of the 75 panel members, 73 said the vaccines were safe and effective. A majority of 68 to 6 members voted to recommend the administration of the vaccines.
"The main goal is protecting the health of children as individuals, but at the end of the day the decision (to vaccinate) is autonomous and subject to the private consideration of each and every family and it should be free of coercion," he said.
The campaign to vaccinate the age group is expected to begin within the next 10 days.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer pediatric vaccine for use last month, with the U.S. Center for Disease Control saying they were safe for use and recommended in order to protect young children from COVID-19.
Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, an expert in epidemiology and public health at Ben-Gurion University, told Ynet on Wednesday ahead of the panel's meeting, that despite some side effects that can be expected when any medication or vaccine is administered, "the risk from the vaccine is much smaller than the risk from the disease itself."
"It also gives us peace, because it not only protects our children, but also protects us as a society,” he said.
In response to claims that there was no medical need to vaccinate young children against the virus, now that the fourth wave of the pandemic caused by the Delta variant has diminished, Davidovitch said that the virus was still with us and will not disappear.
"There are more than five million dead worldwide… People need to be told to get vaccinated right now, when things are calmer, so that they can cope later, in case of an additional surge in cases," he said.
The panel on Wednesday held their vote via Zoom in a meeting that was closed to the public, citing online attacks from vaccine opponents.
Senior health officials, including the Health Ministry's Head of Public Heath Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis received death threats. Alroy-Preis has been assigned a personal security detail after threats were made against her and her family for her role in the battle against the pandemic.
The panel began its deliberations last week in a meeting that was broadcast live on several media outlets and on the ministry's website, and in which members of the public were able to pose questions to the experts.
During the discussion, vaccines opponents massed in the Facebook live feed's comment section and blisteringly denounced the participants in the meeting, with one commenter calling them "criminals" and another exclaiming "the Lord will save us from you."
The Health Ministry said last week that it would work to fast-track the shipment of pediatric jabs if approved by the panel of experts.
First published: 20:36, 11.10.21