Israel has expanded its Covid-19 vaccination campaign to teens aged 16 -18, in an effort to enable them to sit exams.
More than 25% of Israel’s population of 9 million have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine since December 19, the health ministry says.
Israel started with the elderly and others at high risk, but people aged 40 and over can also now get the vaccine.
It hopes to start reopening its economy in February.
The inclusion of 16 to 18-year-olds – with parental permission – is meant “to enable their return (to school) and the orderly holding of exams”, an education ministry spokeswoman said.
The matriculation exams that Israeli students sit at the end of high school play an important role in deciding where they will go to university. Their results can also affect their placement in the military, where many young Israelis do compulsory service.
However, the education ministry has said it is too early to say whether schools will reopen next month.
Israel started its rapid vaccination drive – the fastest in the world – in on December 19, reaching 10% of its population by the end of 2020.
The country has recorded more than 596,000 cases and 4,392 deaths with Covid-19, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
On January 24, the government said it would ban passenger flights in and out of the country from January 25 for the rest of the month, in an effort to halt the spread of new virus variants.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Other than rare exceptions, we are closing the sky hermetically to prevent the entry of the virus variants and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign.”
Foreigners have largely been blocked from entering Israel during the pandemic.