Israel on Tuesday began administering the coronavirus vaccine to children age 5 to 11.
The country recently emerged from a fourth COVID wave, and daily infections have been relatively low for the last few weeks. But Health Ministry statistics show that a large share of the new infections have been in children and teenagers.
Children age 5 to 11 make up nearly half of active cases. Officials hope the new inoculation campaign will help bring down the numbers and perhaps stave off a new wave, The Associated Press said.
Israeli media reported low demand for the shots on the first day they were available to this age group.
Israel, which has a population of more than 9 million, has had more than 1.3 million infections since the start of the pandemic and more than 8,100 deaths.
According to Reuters, policy makers say that the vaccination of younger children is meant first and foremost to protect their individual health and not just to stop the transmission of the virus.
In the past week they have stressed that although COVID-19 is rarely severe among young children and many show no symptoms at all, it can carry risks in the longer term.
Israel's health ministry estimates that one in 3,500 children infected with the coronavirus will later develop Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) in which parts of the body become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin and gastrointestinal organs. Most children who suffer from the condition require intensive care treatment and 1-2% die.