Israel eyes Pfizer-BioNTech jabs for under-16s by May

Jerusalem: Israel hopes to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to children aged 12 to 15 from May, after a study showed its efficacy for the age group, health officials said Thursday.

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Israel has already given the two recommended shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to more than half of its 9.3 million residents, the world’s leading pace per capita.

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It has offered inoculations to all residents 16 and above, the group currently approved to get the vaccine.

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But Pfizer-BioNTech said Wednesday their vaccine showed 100 per cent efficacy against the coronavirus in 12 to 15-year-olds, and planned to submit its data on the age group to US regulators for approval.

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Speaking to Israel’s army radio on Thursday, health ministry director-general Hezi Levy said the ministry wanted to begin inoculating under-16s as early as May.

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“We are seeing a rise in the number of children who are hospitalised, and we are seeing children without symptoms but who suffer from complications,” Levy said.

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“The risk from the vaccine is much lower.”

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The head of Israel’s pandemic response taskforce, Nachman Ash, told Kan radio that health officials were waiting for the US Food and Drug Administration to extend its approval to the lower age group.

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After FDA approval, it would be then discussed by Israel’s vaccination team before the vaccinating of adolescents begins, Ash said.

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“I think it will take a few more weeks,” he said.

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Israel’s successful vaccination rollout was assured by a data sharing deal with Pfizer, which agreed to provide the Jewish state with a robust stock of vaccine in exchange for rapid information about the product’s impact.

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A real world study involving 1.2 million people in Israel found the vaccine to be 94 per cent effective.

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Serious COVID-19 cases and daily infections have both fallen thanks to the vaccination push, but Israel has recorded several new cases among those not vaccinated.

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The results of Phase 3 trials released Wednesday carried out on 2,260 adolescents in the US “demonstrated 100 per cent efficacy and robust antibody responses”, Pfizer and BioNTech said in a statement.

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The companies last week began studies of the jab on children, with the first group of five-to-11 year olds getting the vaccine.

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A younger cohort of two-to-five year olds are expected to get their first dose next week in the study, which will also cover children as young as six months old.

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