Israel to give COVID vaccine to high-risk kids under 12

Pfizer plans to release data on children between five and 11 in September.

Maija Kappler 3 minute read July 29, 2021
covid vaccine kids

An Israeli girl receives a dose of the Pfizer vaccine in Tel Aviv. AFP VIA GETTY Jack Guez / AFP via Getty Images

As COVID-19 cases continue to mount in Israel, health authorities announced this week that the country will start administering the Pfizer vaccine to high-risk children between the ages of five and 11.

Vaccine authorization is open only to kids with a “high probability of serious illness, and even death, following infection with the new coronavirus,” according to the Times of Israel. That means severe autoimmune diseases, chronic lung problems, heart failure, sickle cell anemia, a body mass index (BMI) over the 99th percentile, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Eligible children will need a recommendation from a doctor, which will be verified by the country’s health ministry.

Will Canada start vaccinating children under 12, too?

At an event to encourage vaccination rates in Brampton, Ont. on Monday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu told the crowd she had just spoken to Pfizer and Moderna about vaccinations for children. “We anticipate they will submit to Health Canada [for approval] in the fall,” Hajdu said.

Public Health Canada “is open to reviewing manufacturers submissions,” but won’t issue a decision about potentially opening vaccine eligibility to children until there’s been “a thorough scientific review of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy in this younger age group,” a representative told Healthing in an e-mail. They added that they’re expecting to receive data from the drug companies in the coming months, but that it’s too soon to know when vaccines for kids might be approved.

The Pfizer vaccine is currently approved for Canadians over the age of 12. The company, along with Moderna, has begun clinical trials of the vaccine in children. (Moderna is currently approved only for people over 18.) The New York Times reported this week that Pfizer plans to release data on children between five and 11 in September, with results for children between six months and two years old coming in for October or November. After that information is reviewed and analyzed by public health bodies, children could start getting vaccines in early 2022, Pfizer has said.

That lines up with predictions from Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). The group’s former chair, Dr. Caroline Quach, told CTV News earlier this month that kids likely won’t get the vaccine before 2022, but that some medical experts hope it may come sooner.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have expanded the size and scope of studies after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that they were initially too limited to detect possible side effects, including myocarditis and pericarditis, according to The New York Times.

There are several studies underway in Canada as well. Medical experts at the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, the Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group, and the Canadian Pediatric Surveillance Program are all looking at the effectiveness and impact of the COVID vaccine on kids.

“Children and youth have made a lot of sacrifices to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in a press release. “These studies on the effects of illness from COVID-19, and COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness will help us learn more about the best ways to protect younger Canadians and their families.”