TEL AVIV, June 22 (Reuters) – Weak link in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination in Israel so far, teens have found themselves on the frontline of the campaign, fearing the Delta variant will entice parents reluctant to have their children vaccinated.
About three-quarters of Israelis in eligible age groups have received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. But that only includes 2-4% of 12-15 year olds since they were made eligible this month, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
With infections dropping from more than 10,000 daily cases in January to single digits, Israel has abandoned almost all social distancing. She hopes to admit tourists vaccinated as early as July.
But after daily cases more than doubled to 125 on Monday after outbreaks in two schools attributed to the more infectious variant of the Delta, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the border crackdown could be extended under new precautions .
“Vaccinate your children,” he urged in televised remarks, warning that the currently allocated doses would expire on July 9.
Israel’s two largest healthcare providers say immunization appointments for 12-15 year olds have doubled and tripled in the past few days.
“Now after the COVID outbreaks, I said – today, today, I don’t care, today,” said Yizhak Nevo, who took his 13-year-old daughter to be vaccinated in the town of Binyamina, where a school recently experienced an epidemic.
The health ministry recommended on Monday that 12-15 year olds get vaccinated and is now investing in parent awareness. Read more
Not all parents see a rush. Eldad Askof, who received the vaccine himself, sat outside a school with his 13-year-old son Amit, both wearing masks.
“There has been some debate, but at the moment we think we don’t want to vaccinate. If we can control it without vaccinating children, we prefer that,” he said before Bennett’s speech.
“We believe that at the moment in Israel the situation is not too alarming.”
But experts say there will be no herd immunity if the younger generation is not vaccinated.
More than a third of the population, mostly children and adolescents, is not vaccinated, said Ran Balicer, who heads a government COVID-19 advisory committee. “At this level, it is unlikely that full herd immunity can be achieved.”
There were still not enough cases in Israel of the Delta variant, which is spreading to other countries, to conduct research into the effectiveness of Pfizer’s vaccine, he said.
Some studies abroad have shown its effectiveness.
“There will undoubtedly be an increase in cases but I hope there will not be a dramatic increase in hospital admissions as those infected are young and most adults are vaccinated,” said Adi Stern, professor. of Evolutionary Virology at Tel Aviv University.
Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Giles Elgood
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