Clowns, jesters and balloons were on display in Israel on Monday night as some of the first young children to be inoculated against the coronavirus have received their jabs.
Authorities began rolling out the Pfizer vaccine to children aged between 5 and 11 as it emerged they accounted for a third of all new infections so far in November.
The proportion of young children infected has risen to nearly half in recent days, officials said.
Israel’s “R” rate – which measures the rate at which the virus is being reproduced – rose above one this month, meaning it has begun to spread faster,
Scientists and officials in Israel have been doubtful the country can reach “herd immunity” unless children are vaccinated.
But policy makers also say that the vaccination of younger children is meant primarily to protect their individual health and not just to stop the transmission of the virus.
The nationwide campaign to vaccinate younger children begins on Tuesday morning, but one vaccination centre in Tel Aviv began offering jabs on Monday night.
Lyn Sonod was among the first mothers to arrive at a vaccination centre in Tel Aviv, bring her two youngest children.
“I came here to have my two youngest children vaccinated. I’ve already had my oldest children vaccinated,” she said.
“I think it is very important. I do believe in the vaccination, I think it is a, we need to think of the public in general.”
“We know that we need to do the vaccination in order to get to life,” said Katy Bai Shalom, who also brought her children along.
“We were in quarantine a lot of time and the kids go to school, they are doing a lot of social activities and we are very excited that we can vaccinate them and get to normal life.”
Israel’s 9.4 million population is relatively young, with around 1.2 million children in the 5-to-11 age group.
By November, that group comprised more than a third of new cases, according to health ministry data.
Israel’s health ministry estimates that one in 3,500 children infected with coronavirus will later develop Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) in which parts of the body become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, and gastrointestinal organs.
Most children who suffer from the condition require intensive care treatment and 1-2% die.
Officials have also noted the risk of lingering symptoms, such as sleep disruption, muscle pain, loss of smell and taste, headaches and a cough, commonly known as “long Covid.”
Israel has recorded 1.3 million total confirmed cases and more than 8,000 dead since the start of the pandemic.
Around 57% of Israel’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the health ministry, which means they have either received a third jab or it has not yet been five months since receiving their second.
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