The number of Israeli teenagers (between the ages of 12-15) that have received a COVID-19 vaccination has crossed the 200,000 mark over the weekend, the Ministry of Health announced. About 40% of that age group received their first dose and almost 25% received both doses. This is a result of a wide campaign by the Ministry of Health driven by rising morbidity and a looming expiring date on vaccines.
Public health providers opened dozens of vaccination centers across the country over the weekend in order to use up the stock of vaccines that are set to expire. To entice teenagers to get vaccinated, the municipality of Rishon LeZion stationed a vaccination center at the beach and included flashy attractions like virtual reality games, a rock-climbing wall, and a zip line, among other things. Similar steps were taken by other municipalities.
Israel has to use up its existing supply of vaccines, as the doses will expire at the end of July. The interim time between the first and second dose should be 21 days, meaning that the first dose is required by Saturday, July 10th so that the second dose can be completed by the month’s end.
Rising morbidity, due to the Delta variant, has swept through Israel during the month of June and has made a noticeable impact on the country. After a brief return to life without COVID restrictions and mask requirements for indoor and outdoor spaces, the new government has reinstated mask orders for public transit and indoor spaces.
Sefi Sobel Roitblatt, director of Clalit's vaccination drive, said: "In the last week, there has been a significant jump in the number of people being vaccinated. The parents and children who come to Clalit's vaccination facilities say that they chose to get vaccinated because this is the most effective way to protect their children from contracting COVID-19. The more vaccinated people in the State of Israel there are at this age, the greater the protection provided by the vaccines against the spread of the epidemic and serious illness. A high proportion of vaccinated people among all age groups – including among teens – will allow us to go on with life without restrictions, reduce the volume of morbidity and allow the opening of the next school year as planned."
The vaccination drive for 12 to 15-year-olds in Israel officially began on June 6, following the decision of the vaccination committees in the Ministry of Health. The decision came five months after the start of the wider vaccination campaign, which allowed only vaccination from the age of 16 up.
The committees relied on FDA approval for the use of Pfizer's vaccine at these ages, and on the clinical trial conducted by the company, among other data. However, since the beginning of Israel’s vaccination campaign in December, the vaccination committees have allowed roughly 1,000 children and adolescents younger than 16 with chronic diseases that put them at higher risk to be vaccinated.