Asian infant receives COVID-19 vaccine
Asian infant receives COVID-19 vaccine iStock

Israel's four HMOs are preparing to begin a coronavirus vaccination campaign for infants and children ages six months to five years - next week.

According to Israel Hayom, the Health Ministry and HMOs do not expect that parents will be lining up to vaccinate their youngest children, since just a quarter of children ages 5-11 have been vaccinated, and children ages 0-5 do not usually present with severe cases of coronavirus.

There is, however, a growing body of evidence linking the new "mysterious" hepatitis affecting young children with the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Israel Pediatric Association, led by Dr. Michal Stein, has published a list of conditions which place young children in a high-risk category. It is recommended that these children especially receive the vaccine, since they are at increased risk of hospitalization and complications.

Among the high-risk group are infants younger than one year of age, those born prematurely, infants and young children suffering from diabetes, obesity (over the 95th percentile), congenital or acquired immunosuppression, chronic lung disease (including congenital defects and a need for oxygen on a regular basis), chronic heart disease, neurological issues (including seizures), chronic kidney disease, and infants and those who are fed through a feeding tube.

The Association's experts added, "Since most of the severe illness among those ages six months to four years has been identified among children with no existing preconditions, every parent interested in doing so should be allowed to vaccinate his children."

Additionally, for the first time, Israeli parents will be able to choose between two vaccines: Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines will be offered for children six months to five years old. The difference between the two is that Moderna's vaccine is given in two doses but is only 60% effective, whereas the Pfizer-BioNTech is given in three doses, after which it appears to be 80% effective.