What we know about Covid-19 jabs for kids

In Israel, more than half of those over 12 years old and some younger children have had a single dose of Covid-19 vaccine – with a few already onto booster jabs. What can we learn from this?I

In late August 2021, Talia Shmuel took her five-year-old son to their local health clinic in Jerusalem, Israel, for his first vaccine against Covid-19. He was born with a heart defect, and as a side-effect has a severely narrowed windpipe, which makes him particularly vulnerable to the disease. “Any time he gets sick, it generally turns into pneumonia,” Shmuel says. “And he gets sick a lot.”

Shmuel, a mother of three, needed special authorisation by Israel’s Ministry of Health to have her son vaccinated, because of his young age. She felt excited, and confident that it was the right choice. “My husband and I are both research analysts, and we look at every single number that comes across; we are tracking everything,” she says. “We check multiple different sources. From the numbers, yes, there are possible side-effects [of the vaccine]. However, the side-effects of Covid-19 are significantly worse for him.”

As more and more countries around the world are beginning to offer Covid-19 vaccines for children over 12, Israel offers a glimpse of what the future may hold. The country rapidly vaccinated a large part of its adult population earlier this year. In June, it recommended vaccinating children over 12, after outbreaks in schools – and is now already offering third doses as booster shots for that age group. Since July, it has also offered vaccinations for children aged 5-11 “in exceptional circumstances”, including severe chronic lung illnesses and congestive heart failure. But while the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been shown to be safe for children, the decision can be more complex than for adults. Since children tend to be less affected by Covid-19, even a small number of adverse reactions to the vaccine can make it harder to justify the jab.

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