Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is on an urgent mission to vaccinate as close as possible to 100% of the Israeli population against COVID-19. But Israelis have a lot of children, so to achieve that goal he needs approval to jab kids under the age of 12.
On Thursday, Bennett phoned Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla to request that his company accelerate the regulatory approval process for inoculating children between the ages of 5-11 with its coronavirus vaccine.
Bourla reportedly agreed to do everything he could to speed up approval.
From next week Israel will fully reinstate its “Green Passport” system, meaning citizens cannot enter closed (and even some open) public spaces without either a vaccination certification or a negative COVID-19 test result taken within the previous 48 hours.
The difference this time is that the restriction now applies to Israelis all the way down to 3-years-of-age. Since the vaccine is not yet approved for children under the age of 12, this means that families with younger children will need to constantly perform coronavirus tests on them if they intend to be out and about, to enjoy the “normal” life to which Israel has reportedly returned.
Vaccination in schools?
In a related development, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on Thursday insisted that the authority to approve administering COVID-19 vaccinations in public schools was his alone.
This was in response to criticism from Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, who went so far as to say it would be “criminal” to place vaccination stations in schools.
Shasha-Biton is by no means against the vaccine, even among children, but believes the government is pushing too hard, and might even be crossing the line of what’s legal.
“Go out and get vaccinated,” the minister said in an interview on Channel 12 last month. “But to do that at schools is criminal, in my estimation. We are talking about children who have been stuck at home for a year-and-a-half and who are on edge emotionally. It is a sensitive topic that will put undue pressure on these children.”
The gist is that some Israeli parents don’t want their young children to be vaccinated when even Pfizer acknowledges it hasn’t yet been fully tested on that age group. Putting vaccination stations in schools could bring about peer pressure that results in those children going against their parents’ wishes.