“It has not hurt,” says Moira Rosenberg, five years old, with a tear on her cheek, who has dressed up in a patterned skirt to get vaccinated against covid-19 at the Cinemacity cinemas in Jerusalem. Her seven-year-old brother Israel smirks in a kippah – “I have not been afraid, like her,” he says – while dragging a dozen balloons through the shopping and entertainment center. The two are part of one of the first groups of children between the ages of five and 11 who this Tuesday began to be vaccinated in Israel with the aim of achieving herd immunity. For the Jewish State, it is key to inoculate the smallest, who represent about 15% of the population, while a new spike in the spread of the pandemic worries the health authorities.
“All families have doubts about whether to vaccinate the little ones,” acknowledges Luiz Rosenberg, the father of Israel and Moira, a 30-year-old religious Jew who emigrated from Brazil in 2008 to train and work as a computer engineer in Jerusalem. “I have informed myself thoroughly and I believe that the advantages of vaccinating them outweigh the possible disadvantages. In addition, in the United States they have already been immunizing children for several weeks, ”he explains before taking his children back home, where a family party awaits them on the day of their first injection against covid.
The Israeli government has cautiously waited for the US childhood vaccination campaign to reach the three million puncture threshold before launching its own program, this time the reduced dose for children under 12 years of Pfizer-BioNTech. Surveys conducted by mutual health insurance companies that manage the public health system show that less than half of the parents are willing to vaccinate their children at first, and the rest prefer to wait a few weeks to check the evolution of the campaign or reject inoculation.
In the first day of childhood vaccinations, only 2.3% of the parents of the 1.2 million Israeli children included in the new age range had been registered. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett led by example and accompanied his nine-year-old son David to a health center in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv. “Immunizing children serves to protect them and to protect their parents,” said the president in a video broadcast on social networks.
Family physician Michal Rosen, 53, director of the Cinemacity vaccination center in Jerusalem, nailed down the official message. “The injection protects families so that grandchildren can be safely with grandparents, but it also defends children from the threat of the coronavirus, which affects them less severely with long-lasting cases of insomnia and muscle pain,” he detailed in a enclosure decorated with children’s drawings and full of balloons, near rooms where it is projected No time to die, the last installment of the James Bond litany, among other films. “As a doctor, but also as a mother, I have no doubts about the need to vaccinate children against covid,” adds Rosen.
After two months of containing the spread of the pandemic in Israel, coinciding with immunization with a third dose of 80% of the adult population, the transmission trend of infections is on the rise again, with a reproductive number ( R) already greater than one (1.04). According to the local sanitary standard – which only considers that there is a complete schedule with the third injection (or the second during the first six months) – in Israel a third of the population is still pending immunization, has warned Dr. Ran Ballicer, Director of the committee of experts in public health that advises the Government.
Infections of children and adolescents are the main cause of the slight rebound in the pandemic that Israel experienced in November. However, the positivity rate for coronavirus is still low: 0.66% in the screening tests carried out on Sunday, the first working day of the week in the Middle East. The health authorities plan to increase the number of childhood vaccination centers (with mobile immunization points in some schools), and to extend the hours during the Sabbath, which paralyzes public activity in the Jewish state from sunset on Friday to Saturday.
“I have not hesitated to bring my children to vaccinate,” said history teacher Ory, 43, who declined to provide her last name. “Here is little Osher, eight years old, and Yarim, six years old,” he bragged along with the two little brothers carrying balloons. “And the youngest, four and a half years old, has just stayed at home.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.