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Israeli Health Ministry chief says there won’t be sanctions on unvaccinated kids

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said Thursday that no sanctions will be imposed on kids whose parents do not vaccinate them against COVID-19, a day after Israel greenlit inoculating youngsters aged 5 to 11.

“We want the parents to make the right health decision. It’s true that the lives of those who are vaccinated are more comfortable, but we do not want anyone to decide based on economic considerations, so the [virus] tests will continue to be free,” Ash told Army Radio.

Health officials had been considering the option of ending free virus tests for children aged 5 to 11 who are not inoculated against COVID-19, a move that would have been aimed at encouraging parents to inoculate that age group instead of relying on the free tests for access to various venues.

Ash said the vaccine drive for that age group would begin later this month, as the kid-size doses were undergoing final inspection by Pfizer.

“It would not be right to wait for a rise in morbidity. We do not know when this will happen and vaccinations take time [to take effect],” Ash told the Kan public broadcaster.

“Even now there are about 200 children who get infected each day, and we want to prevent that,” he added.

The decision to approve the vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 was announced at a Health Ministry press conference on Wednesday, after 73 of the 75 medical experts on a government panel voted in favor of the move in a secret ballot.

The Israeli approval came days after the US Food and Drug Administration granted the vaccine authorization for the 5-11 age group, paving the way for the US to begin immunizing younger kids.

Asked if children who recovered from the virus would be required to be vaccinated, Ash said he was still deliberating.

“There’s a chance we’ll take this to a deeper discussion. We do not want to vaccinate if we don’t need to, but we also do not want children who were infected a long time ago to think they are protected even though they are not,” he told Army Radio.

Israel appears to be at the tail end of its fourth coronavirus wave, as new infections and serious “cases” have ticked down over the past few weeks.

The number of active COVID-19 “cases” in the country dropped to 6,450, after passing 90,000 in early September, according to figures released on Wednesday by the Health Ministry.

The data also showed 475 new “cases” were confirmed on Tuesday, down from 5,000 to 6,000 daily cases almost two months ago. There were 147 people hospitalized in serious condition and the death toll stood at 8,133.

Over 6.2 million Israelis have received at least one vaccine dose, 5.7 million got two doses, and over 4 million got the booster shot.

Source: Nathan Jeffay – TOI