On Wednesday evening, Israel gave its approval for the COVID-19 vaccines for children, but experts have said that they will face an uphill battle when it comes to convincing parents in accepting them. The decision taken by Israel follows the lead of the US according to which children between the ages of 5 and 11 will be eligible for receiving doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. According to the media reports, the first shipment of these child-size doses are going to arrive in Israel next week. A conference was conducted by the Health Ministry for announcing this decision after a secret ballot was conducted and medical experts on a government panel voted 73 out of 75 in favor of the vaccine.
Shortly after the announcement, epidemiologist Prof. Nadav Davidovitch said that the decision was an important one for safe vaccination. He added that they were expecting lower side effects because the dose was lower and comparing it with the alternative of infection made it a very good decision. Chief of a doctors’ union, Davidovitch is also a professor at the Ben Gurion University and adviser to the coronavirus czar, Salman Zarka. He also predicted that only 50% of the parents of kids eligible for the vaccine would be prepared to go through with it, while others would hesitate.
Other health experts also added that the child vaccination drive would prove to be a challenging one. A big concern for Davidovitch is the emergence of a ‘coronavirus gap’ in the country because of vaccination patterns. He said that wealthier families tend to be more open-minded when it comes to preventative healthcare and they tend to vaccinate children at greater rates than poorer families. In future waves, this could lead to higher coronavirus rates amongst children as well as adults in low socioeconomic areas.
He said that they had to ensure such vaccination gaps don’t happen because it could lead to disease. Davidovitch said that coronavirus wasn’t over and they don’t want cases to be concentrated amongst the poor. He stated that this could be prevented if they stay active, similar to the booster campaign, and not just wait for people to get the vaccination done. The problem in Israel is that community background and socioeconomic differences often coincide in the region. Arab communities as well as ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities are poorer on average and have been very hesitant about the coronavirus vaccines as opposed to other groups.
However, there has been a dramatic rise in Arab vaccination recently. Some experts said that the Ultra-Orthodox are expected to be the most hesitant in getting the vaccinations. As far as the Arab community is concerned, it already has a complex relationship with the concept of child vaccines generally. 96% of Arab parents get their children HPV vaccinated, but only 54% of Jewish parents do so. As far as COVID vaccine is concerned, the community was quite hesitant when it came to teen vaccinations and they are likely to have the same stance for kids. Education initiatives and strong campaigning across all communities would be required.