According to a leading Israeli health expert, the UK will be at risk of a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections, unless they have the same vaccination rates as that of adults. Part of the expert panel that gives advice to the Israeli government about COVID-19, Professor Nadav Davidovitch warned Britain ministers that if they want to have high vaccination rates amongst children between the ages of 5 and 11, then they would have to overcome concerns of parents regarding child development and ‘fake news’ regarding the side effects of the vaccine on kids.
Israel had been one of the world’s first countries that gave the green light for the COVID vaccine to be used for this age group, but only 25% of the children’s population has taken it up. The take-up rate has been 90% in the over-50s age group. According to Professor Nadav Davidovitch, the COVID-19 vaccine should be made part of the routine immunization program of children in order to boost rates. He stated that it was low compliance that had resulted in the large cases of the Omicron variant in Israel. He called it an important driver because in the first wave, children had not been as vulnerable to infection, nor infecting others.
However, this has changed significantly, especially when it comes to the Omicron and Delta variants. He said that now it has become apparent that children can also suffer from long COVID and some studies have shown that vaccines can be quite effective in reducing this risk. He went on to say that getting vaccinated is not only about personal protection but also about protecting the community. He said that getting inoculated was also about reducing long COVID and hospitalization. Serving at Ben Gurion University as a director of public health school, Professor Davidovitch stated that there were a number of reasons why parents were hesitant when it comes to vaccinating their children.
He said that there were emotional concerns about a new vaccine, along with risk perception not just about the side effects of the vaccine itself, but about the chances of their child falling ill due to COVID. Professor Davidovitch said that it was interesting to note that the public believe the coronavirus vaccine is more dangerous for children, even though most of the time it is the exact opposite. He said that the data showed the vaccine was great for kids and the problem of myocarditis had been seen in children of ages between 16 and 19. It was a rare occurrence in the 5 to 11 age group.
Israeli data shows that parents belonging to wealthier families are more likely to get their child vaccinated, as opposed to those that belong to low-income backgrounds. This could be because they trust the system and are more health literate. Others might not be so open because of the mistrust of the government, or because of the fake news that had been spread amongst minorities. He added that COVID would become an endemic disease and this means an outbreak is not needed to vaccinate.