Sharon Alroy-Preis
Sharon Alroy-Preisצילום: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

A number of senior Israeli Health Ministry officials spoke at a hearing of the Knesset’s Health Committee Tuesday morning, addressing concerns regarding the vaccination of young children with the COVID vaccine.

At the hearing, which was convened by chairwoman MK Idit Silman (Yamina), Dr. Boaz Lev, who heads up the Health Ministry team for combatting the coronavirus, told lawmakers that Ministry experts “have no good reason, biologically, to assume there will be long-term side-effects for children from the vaccine.”

“Most adverse reactions are mild and passing, and it was not reasonable for the health advisory committee not to recommend approving the vaccine,” Lev continued, referring to the decision to back permitting the vaccine for children five to eleven.

“Lots of side-effects are expected from many vaccines – including, for instance, bleeding and changes in menstrual cycles for teenage girls. It is unpleasant, but based on the data that has been gathered thus far, there are no negative impacts for fertility or anything else.”

“The children are the ones who aren’t vaccinated today, so more than 60% of the ill each day are in these age groups. A parent who wants to vaccinate his or her child can do so, and the opposite as well. We respect the parent’s right to decide.”

Former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, who attended the hearing, asked Dr. Lev to comment on reports of deaths caused by the COVID vaccine abroad, saying that he is personally familiar with two such cases.

Lev replied that he had not heard of the specific reports Feiglin cited, and added that even if there were deaths caused by the vaccine, the risk of COVID itself outweighs any risks from the vaccine.

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, Israel’s public health services chief, told MKs that since the beginning of the pandemic, 206 Israelis ages 0 to 18 were listed in critical condition at one point or another after being infected with COVID.

Of those, 42 were in the 5-11 age range.

A total of 11 children died with the virus, Alroy-Preis added, noting that all eleven had pre-existing medical conditions. Of those, four were in the 5-11 age group.

Alroy-Preis also discussed cases of paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS) among children infected with COVID.

PIMS, a rare condition which effects roughly 0.03% of children diagnosed with COVID, is an autoimmune response prompted by the body’s attempts to combat the virus.

While most cases of PIMS are minor, a small number of cases have led to severe illness.

According to Alroy-Preis, 277 cases of PIMS have been documented in Israel thus far, including 195 which have been thoroughly investigated.

Of the total number of cases reported, 99 occurred in children ages 5-11.

Two cases of PIMS resulted in death.

“Our goal is to present the numbers in the most transparent and open way possible, to tell the public and parents what the risks from the disease are and what the risks from the vaccine are,” said Alroy-Preis.

“Now parents will have to make their decision. There is trouble with the fact that people think this isn’t a serious illness or it isn’t a childhood illness. That’s incorrect. We’ve shown data; kids are sick, they can get very sick and they can get sick with very serious symptoms. One child out of 3,000 with COVID in Israel will get PIMS.”

But, Alroy-Preis added, the Health Ministry is not planning to pressure parents to vaccinate young children.

“In Israel there will be no attempt to force vaccines. Some countries have a Green Pass system for the vaccinated only. But here, we give the option of taking a test. We don’t want to force people to vaccinate.”