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Israel expects to start vaccinating children by March, virus chief says

FILE PHOTO: A medical worker prepares to administer a second vaccination injection against the coronavirus disease as Israel continues its national vaccination drive, during a third national COVID-19 lockdown, at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital) in Tel Aviv, Israel January 10, 2021 REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel may include children over the age of 12 in groups receiving COVID-19 vaccines within the next two months if research shows this is safe, a top health official said on Tuesday.

Vaccinating at a world-record pace, Israel says it aims to have administered one or both shots to 5 million of its 9 million citizens, and reopen the economy, by mid-March.

Elderly Israelis and adults with medical conditions or jobs in critical high-risk sectors have been given priority. But with Israeli officials anticipating more regular vaccine shipments, the eligibility categories have been expanded.

Nachman Ash, national coordinator on the pandemic, predicted that pharmacological research would establish that the minimum age threshold for the vaccines could be safely lowered from 16 to 12, and FDA approval for such use secured, by March.

“The fact that children under the age of 16 are not currently getting vaccinated is certainly troubling, in terms of the ability to achieve herd immunity,” he told 103 FM radio.

“I reckon that, in another month or two, there will be another cohort - the aged-12 and higher - that we can vaccinate.”

Around 7.75% of Israel’s population are between the ages of 12 and 16, according to Central Bureau of Statistics data.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Giles Elgood

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