Israel launches mega state drill against “Omega lethal variant”

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Israel IsraelVaccination of children is underway in Israel: the committee of experts for the fight against pandemics approved an overwhelming majority (73 against 2) yesterday evening for anti-Covid vaccination for children between 5 and 11 years of age. The experts also recommended (64 consensuses) not to wait for a new wave of the pandemic to start the campaign, which will begin within ten days, after ratifying the measure by the director-general of the Ministry of Health expected soon.

Among the still open issues discussed in a new committee meeting are the interval between injections (but the same vaccination protocol for adults seems to be emerging) and the vaccination of recovered children. In addition, 68 experts voted in favor of the authorities’ “recommendation” for parents to vaccinate their children.

“As for adults, no one is obliged to get vaccinated, but the expert committee has made a strong recommendation in this regard,” Professor David Greenberg, director of the pediatric infectious disease department at the Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva, told Repubblica. And a member of the committee. One of the primary considerations that guided the experts was dictated by the effects of Long Covid on children, examining the data collected by the various clinics specializing in the treatment of long-term symptoms of the coronavirus opened this year in almost all Israeli medical centers. According to Schneider Children’s Hospital data, of the 160 minors who turned to the Long Covid clinic, none of them were vaccinated, and 30% were between 5 and 11 years old.

The Ministry of Health will also have to establish the procedures for applying the green pass for this age group. “We want parents to make the right decision not based on economic considerations, so tampons will continue to be subsidized,” said Professor Nahman Ash, director-general of the ministry. Currently, the green certificate is applicable for 12 years, and the unvaccinated or cured can be obtained with the presentation of a negative swab but charged to the citizen. Even when children between the ages of 12 and 17 vaccination’s authorization in June, the swabs remained subsidized for this age category for three months.

It is assumed that this will be the country’s model again: broad information and awareness campaign and, later, a tightening on green certification. In the various polls published ahead of the campaign, a split in public opinion emerges. About 50% of Israeli parents declare that they intend to vaccinate their children, and another 50% are divided instead between opposing or undecided. Among the opponents, about 70% base their response on the lack of information on the vaccine’s long-term impact on infants, and 55% because the virus is not lethal to children. In the face of much hesitation, the first debate of the committee of experts last week was held in an open format, broadcast in live streaming, with the intervention of experts from civil society. Yesterday’s session, on the other hand, took place behind closed doors.

In Israel, one-third of the total population (9.3 million inhabitants) is under 17. Among these, over 1.2 million are in the age group between 5 and 11 years (including over 200,000 are healed). Therefore, experts believe that vaccinating children is the key to achieving herd immunity in the country.

In the face of the decline in all the epidemiological parameters that indicate that Israel has overcome the fourth wave with an extensive campaign of administering the third dose of vaccine launched in August, some restrictions will now lapse. For example, the masks will no longer be needed in events at the open with over 100 participants, and the green pass will not be required for events with up to 1000 participants outdoors and 100 indoors. In recent days, Israel has also opened its doors to tourists (vaccinated only) for the first time since the pandemic started.

However, the government continues to convey great caution regarding a possible new wave. Today the first national exercise will be held – “world precedent,” declares the office of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett – to test the country’s readiness in the face of the scenario of a possible lethal “Omega” variant. “We defeated the fourth wave, but at the same time, we are always looking to the future and preparing for the future,” said Bennett.

The premier will supervise the exercise from the government’s central ‘situation room’ in Jerusalem. That will be led by the Department of Civil Protection director of the Ministry of Defense, General Moshe Edri, simulating various scenarios that will test different government departments and infrastructures at every state and civilian level. It applies cross-cutting decisions on movement restrictions, quarantine management, the response from the education and health system, mass swabs, and the application of vaccination protocols.

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