If everything goes as planned, in a couple of months, the public health system in Israel is expected to begin a new phase in its vaccination campaign against COVID-19. This is when they will begin vaccinating around 600,000 teenagers who are under the age of 16, mostly between 12 and 15. As they have already initiated a campaign of vaccinating people 16 or older, the logistics are not particularly challenging and there is no uncertainty about the availability of the vaccine. However, what they have to do is initiate a public relations effort for explaining the importance of getting vaccinated to the parents of the recipients in this case.
The Health Ministry hasn’t yet begun the vaccination of youngsters falling between the age group of 12 and 15 because they are waiting for the clinical trials by Pfizer to come to an end. Plus, the vaccine hasn’t been approved for the younger age group by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The initial trials by Pfizer on the coronavirus vaccine didn’t include any patients under the age of 16. The experts agree that a public information effort and targeted preparation would be needed for vaccinating this younger cohort.
Firstly, this is because Israel will be the first country to begin vaccinating youngsters under the age of 16 at a time when the other countries are still focusing on vaccinating the elderly. Since Israel has led the world in launching a vaccination campaign against the disease, it is natural for them to be first in this aspect as well, but there will be some concern amongst parents as it hasn’t been done before. Furthermore, the experience in the last several months has shown that younger people are less eager to get vaccinated. The age groups eligible for getting the vaccine may have expanded, but younger people have a lower risk of getting the illness.
Therefore, they are not as willing to get vaccinated. Moreover, the declining rate of infection in the population of Israel may also prompt some parents to believe that they can wait to have their kids vaccinated. However, public health officials agree that if Israel wants to achieve herd immunity against the virus, then the younger people of the country also have to be vaccinated, since they constitute about one third of the total population. Putting aside considerations like social solidarity and herd immunity, the vaccination program for those under 16 would be important if schools are to go back to their pre-pandemic routines.
This refers to the era when Zoom classes were not the norm and before schools had to deal with COVID-19 testing, quarantine and coronavirus outbreaks. The only way things can go back to normal is through a high rate of vaccination amongst students. High schools where nearly 90% of the students in 11th and 12th grade have been vaccinated, classes have gotten back to normal. For now, it is difficult to predict how the vaccination campaign for 12 to 15 year olds will proceed. So far, it has proven to be quite effective and safe for people over 16 and the elderly.