A panel of experts at Israel’s Health Ministry has approved giving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to children ages 5 to 11, paving the way for the country to become one of the first after the United States to authorize the shot for children.
The decision requires the approval of the director general of the Health Ministry, Dr. Nachman Ash, before it takes effect.
All but two of the 75 Israeli experts backed the move in a vote on Wednesday evening. In a separate vote, 57 of the experts backed the vaccination of children who have already recovered from the virus.
In the United States, White House officials on Wednesday estimated that nearly a million children ages 5 to 11 have gotten shots since the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was cleared for use last week.
Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel was an early leader in administering the vaccine to its adult population, though its rate later fell behind that of other countries. Since taking office in June, Mr. Netanyahu’s successor, Naftali Bennett, has staked his reputation on rapid vaccine administration in a bid to avoid another nationwide lockdown.
Israel, Mr. Bennett has said, must learn to “live alongside the virus.”
In June, Mr. Bennett’s government became one of the first to vaccinate young people ages 12 to 15, and in July it authorized booster shots for people 60 and older, even before that approach was approved in the United States. Mr. Bennett allowed the rest of the population access to booster shots in August, again before most of the rest of the world.
The virus appears to be on the retreat at the moment in Israel. The country registered 147 serious cases on Wednesday, the lowest number since the end of July.
But its vaccine drive has been met with some resistance, particularly after participation in many public activities became conditional on the presentation of a vaccine passport. The Health Ministry, facing a backlash, canceled a live broadcast this week of a panel discussion about vaccinating children, and a senior health official was assigned a security detail after she received a series of threats.