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Middle East

Israel urges vaccination for all teens, citing Delta variant

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A teenager receives a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after Israel approved the usage of the vaccine for youngsters aged 12-15, at a Clalit healthcare maintenance organisation in Ashkelon, Israel June 6, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

JERUSALEM, June 21 (Reuters) - Israel on Monday recommended that all 12-15 year-olds be vaccinated against COVID-19, citing new outbreaks attributed to the more infectious Delta variant.

Israel expanded vaccine eligibility to include adolescents last month but until now had left the matter up to the parents' preference.

With about three-quarters of Israelis in eligible age groups having received the vaccine, infections have fallen off sharply from a peak of more than 10,000 daily cases in January to days with single digits this month.

The country has since dropped nearly all its social distancing restrictions, although its borders remain largely closed to tourists.

But COVID-19 recurrences were logged at two schools last week and the daily positivity rate is creeping back up to 100, Health Ministry data showed.

In response the ministry issued the formal recommendation for 12-15 year-olds to get vaccinated, noting that travel abroad is expected to rise during the summer.

Nachman Ash, the national pandemic response coordinator, said earlier that the move "would certainly be correct at this stage".

"We should not wait for higher numbers. We have seen there were quite a few children infected over the last week."

Separately, Israel's health minister said the government would begin imposing fines on Israelis who traveled to countries deemed unsafe due to high infection levels.

Israel has been a world leader with its vaccine rollout and has been sharing data it collected with Pfizer, which provided the vaccines.

Writing by Dan Williams Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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