What has changed?
On Monday evening the health ministers of the 16 German states agreed unanimously in coordination with the federal Health Ministry to open up vaccination centres to teenagers aged between 12 and 17.
The vaccine appointments are to be accompanied by consultations with doctors and, where necessary, the consent of a guardian.
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The change here is a subtle one. Previously, teenagers were able to receive a vaccine at their local GPs practice. Now, they can also book an appointment with one of the dozens of vaccine centres dotted across the country, which initially bore the weight of the vaccine campaign before GPs entered the fray in May.
Why has the change come about?
With ever fewer adults willing to be vaccinated against Covid-19, the German government is scratching its head over how to achieve a higher vaccine quota and thus reach its stated goal of creating herd immunity.
State health ministers hope that by making it easier for teenagers to get an appointment, they can thus give new impetus to the flagging campaign.
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Some 900,000 teenagers have so far been vaccinated, suggesting that there is considerable willingness among teenagers (or their parents) for them to have a vaccine.
Does the new rule contradict the vaccine commission’s recommendations?
Germany’s vaccine commission, the STIKO, currently recommends explicitly that teenagers who have health issues that put them at risk of having a serious bout of Covid should be vaccinated.
They also state that all youths in this age group can be vaccinated once they have had a consultation with their doctor. That means the current recommendation neither explicitly recommends or advises against a vaccination for healthy teens.
Thomas Mertens, head of the STIKO, said that the decision to offer vaccinations to teenagers at vaccine centres did not contradict his group’s recommendations.
“This is a political decision, it is the freedom of politics to offer something like this in terms of general health care,” he said.
Bavarian health minister Klaus Holetschek also said that the decision was made on the basis of the STIKO’s recommendation.
“We are going down a path that the STIKO considers entirely possible. And on this basis, we are now making this vaccination offer,” he said.
How has the decision been received?
Thomas Fischbach, head of the National Association of Pediatricians, said that it was now time for the STIKO to change its recommendation in order to expressly recommend vaccines for teenagers.
“The risk of side effects from vaccination is extremely low, as shown by all data from other countries,” he said.
The vaccination committiee is expected to announce a new recommendation for teenagers within the next 10 days.
Ulrich Weigeldt of the Association of General Practitioners said that the decision to open vaccine centres to teenagers should have been made after the STIKO had published its latest recommendation.
“Why it wasn’t possible to wait for a recommendation from the STIKO, which plans to make a statement on the basis of scientific studies, is a mystery to me.
“The whole thing sounds a bit like election campaigning,” he said.
How do I book an appointment for my teenage child?
The process of booking a consultation and vaccine is a responsibility of the individual states.
People who are interested in receiving a vaccine at a test centre should apply through the online portals provided by their state administrators.