At the moment, Germany recommends that everyone over the age of 12 receives the Covid jab, while those under 12 are not eligible for a vaccine. That could soon change.
On Friday, scientists behind the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine said they are getting ready to make smaller doses of the vaccine for younger children.
BioNTech co-founder and Chief Medical Officer Özlem Türeci said: “We will be presenting the results from our study on 5-to-11-year-olds to authorities around the world in the coming weeks.
In the interview with Spiegel, she also revealed that the firm would be applying for clearance for use of the vaccine for that age group, including in the EU.
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So when might the vaccine be offered to children?
That we don’t know for certain, but if all goes to plan, the first children under the age of 12 in Germany could be vaccinated with BioNTech as early as mid-October.
It’s sooner than expected. The head of the German Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, Andreas Gassen, had recently predicted that a vaccine for children under 12 would not be available until the end of the year.
However, Germany’s vaccine panel STIKO initially hesitated on issuing a general recommendation for 12-17 year olds earlier this summer to receive the Covid vaccine, instead only advising that young people with underlying illnesses get it.
But in August the commission changed its mind after analysing new guidance and issued a general recommendation. Despite the hesitant guidance, the German government had called on young people to get their jabs anyway.
We’ll have to wait and see what the advice is – and what the government calls for – when the vaccine is approved for youngsters.
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Will the vaccine be exactly the same as the one for over 12s?
As we mentioned above, there will be a different dosage of the vaccine for under 12s. Türeci, who founded BioNTech with her husband, Uğur Şahin, said they were preparing to make smaller doses of the vaccine in anticipation of getting the go-ahead from authorities.
Türeci said: “We are already preparing for production. The vaccine is the same, but at a lower dose.”
The study results are currently being prepared for regulators. “It looks good, everything is going according to plan,” CEO Şahin told Spiegel. Meanwhile, study data on younger children aged six months and above is expected by the end of the year.
At the same time, the two BioNTech founders called for every effort to be made to convince people who are still undecided about vaccination in the coming weeks.
“There are still about 60 days left for us as a society to avoid a harsh winter,” Şahin said. “We should do what we can to mobilise as many people as possible in these almost two months. Every additional person vaccinated helps. We should not give up.”
What else should we know?
Last week German doctors spoke out against people under 12 getting a Covid vaccine before there is an approval.
“Under no circumstances are we in favour of off-label vaccination,” said Jörg Dötsch, director of the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the University Hospital of Cologne.
Dötsch called for adults to help protect children who cannot yet get their jabs by getting vaccinated.
“We have about 17 million adults who have not been vaccinated,” he said. “That’s where the problem is,” he said at a Science Media Center (SMC) press briefing last Monday.
“Adults have an obligation to help protect the people who can’t get vaccinated and who are ultimately at risk,” said Dötsch who is also president of the German Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (DGKJ).