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COVID-19

EU approves use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children 12 and over in Europe

The European Commission authorised the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds on Friday, following the European Medicines Agency's approval of administering the jabs to adolescents earlier in the day.

EU approves use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children 12 and over in Europe
A nurse prepares a syringe with saline solution before it is diluted with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at the Evonik vaccination in Hanau, western Germany (Photo by THOMAS LOHNES / AFP)

This vaccine is already approved for people aged 16 and over in the EU.

Earlier this month, US regulators authorised the vaccine for children in the 12-to-15 age group, and it is now widely available.

The European Medicines Agency said that two doses of the vaccine would be needed in adolescents and should be given at least three weeks apart, which is the same guidance as for adult use.

Individual EU states would be able to decide whether or not they wanted to offer the vaccine to the 12 to 15-year-olds.

READ ALSO: Vaccines to be made available to children 12 and over in Germany starting June

Germany said on Thursday that it would start giving the vaccine to children from 12 to 15 from June 7th, which is when vaccine prioritisation for all adults is set to end in Germany.

READ ALSO: Covid jabs for children in Germany will be an ‘individual decision’, says Health Minister

Italy has also said it would extend its vaccination campaign to the over-12s, with approval from Italy’s regulator expected by Monday.

READ ALSO: Italy to open Covid jab appointments to all over-16s from June 3rd

And Austrian capital Vienna was waiting for the EMA approval before opening up Covid-19 vaccination registrations to parents of 12- to 15-year-olds.

In Switzerland, meanwhile, children may be able to get vaccinated at the age of 10, even without their parents’ approval.

The EMA approval may help reassure parents when children go back to face-to-face teaching, but the issue is not without controversy.

A few figures in the medical community have said there is not yet enough evidence to support vaccines and their potential side effects in younger people, while others believe older and vulnerable people in less wealthy countries should be prioritised over children.

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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