Jerusalem, Jan 16 : Israel is expected to start vaccines for babies and toddlers, between six months and 5 years, by April, according to a senior health official.
Currently vaccines are available in the country for adults, and children aged five and above.
"In Israel vaccines are available now for everybody aged five and over. I believe by April this year it will be expanded for any age above six months," Dr Asher Shalmon, the Health Ministry's director for international relations, said in a briefing to foreign policymakers and journalists this week.
US drugmaker Pfizer is in the process of conducting clinical trials to lower the approved age for its vaccine from five years to six months, Times of Israel reported.
Pfizer had reported last month that in its ongoing trial of children aged six months to five years, "no safety concerns were identified" and the vaccine "demonstrated a favourable safety profile." The company is currently checking responses to a regimen of three mini doses for under-5s, after finding that a two-dose approach provoked a strong response among children aged 6-24 months, but was not very strong in children aged two to five years, the report said.
According to government Covid adviser Prof Nadav Davidovitch, a top epidemiologist, children are often much less sick than adults, but they can have "PIMS [pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome, an after effect of Covid-19] and long Covid, which is why vaccines are important, and there will be vaccines for children under five." The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found that the Pfizer vaccine is highly protective against PIMS. It concluded that the vaccine is 91 per cent effective in preventing PIMS among 12-18 years of age, a statistic based on comparison of its occurrence among unvaccinated teenagers, the report said.
Davidovitch said parents should not let their guard down against Omicron based on observations that it tends to cause milder illness than previous variants.
"It's clear now that unlike with the original SARS-COV-2 that was not so relevant to children and they were not so infectious, now things are very different," he said.
"It's probably related to biological characteristics, infection is now much more in your throat and in the upper respiratory areas. With children, whose anatomy is different from adults', this seems to make them more prone to infection now."
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