German vaccine panel recommends Covid jabs for ‘at-risk’ young children

The German Standing Vaccines Commission (STIKO) has provisionally recommended that five to 11-year-old children with pre-existing conditions be given Covid shots - though healthy children should also be able to get vaccinated.

A 7-year-old girl recieves her Covid vaccination
A 7-year-old girl is given a plaster after recieving her Covid jabs in Leipzig, Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jan Woitas

In a draft resolution released on Thursday, STIKO said the Covid vaccine would be recommended both for younger children with vulnerabilities and those who have contact with at-risk individuals, such as a parent with health problems.

If five to 11-year-olds don’t fall into either of these groups, it will still be possible to get vaccinated against Covid on request and after a medical consultation with a doctor, the draft stated. The experts’ resolution is now due to be circulated among states and clinical societies before it is finalised, so changes are still possible at this stage. 

“Although the 7-day incidence in age group is very high – so it can be assumed that without vaccination a large proportion of five- to 11-year-olds will be infected in the medium term – most infections are asymptomatic,” STIKO wrote.

Children without preexisting conditions in this age group are currently at low risk for severe courses of Covid-19, hospitalisation and intensive care, they added. In addition, the risk of rare adverse events from vaccination cannot currently be assessed for this age group due to limited data.

Therefore, the STIKO “is not currently making a general vaccination recommendation” for children of that age without preexisting conditions.

The vaccine panel further wrote that it “again and emphatically points out” that parents, teachers, educators, and others involved in the care of children and adolescents “should urgently take advantage of the vaccination offer including booster vaccination for themselves”.

In order to make the vaccine suitable for young children, Pfizer/BioNTech has developed a lower-dosed version of its Covid vaccine that is supplied to doctors in orange vials. After it received approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) at the end of November, German states will receive their first batches of the modified vaccine on December 13th. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: When can children get the Covid jab in Germany?

Some states, such as Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia, have already announced plans to start carrying out vaccinations on children from the middle of next week. 

For children aged 5-11, two doses of the lower-dosed mRNA vaccine should be administered three to six weeks apart. In the past, when doctors vaccinated younger children, they usually reduced the dose of the vaccine that had been approved for over-12s themselves – this falls under so-called off-label use. 

The STIKO recommendation, on the other hand, refers only to the new vaccine specially dosed for children. 

Though doctors are able to carry out vaccinations without a recommendation in place, such resolutions are considered the medical standard and are an important guideline for many physicians. Since the start of the pandemic, the committee has repeatedly adjusted its vaccination recommendations to take into account the latest research and factors such as current infection rates or new variants.

Vaccination for children aged 12 years and older was initially recommended only for pre-existing conditions but was later change to encompass the entire age group. This, among other decisions, has put STIKO in the firing line as critics accused the expert panel of responding too hesitantly to the latest data. 

READ ALSO: Swiss parents take children to Austria and Germany for Covid shots

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German vaccine commission ‘to recommend fourth Covid jab for over 60s’

Germany's Permanent Vaccination Commission (Stiko) is set to recommend that all people over 60 get a booster jab against the coronavirus, according to a report in Bild newspaper.

German vaccine commission 'to recommend fourth Covid jab for over 60s'

While the report has not yet been officially confirmed, Germany’s health minister, Karl Lauterbach, said on Twitter on Monday: “Thanks to the #Stiko that the recommendation of a 4th vaccination is now coming for the over 60 age group.”

Lauterbach, who has advised that all adults get a fourth jab, added that this was an “important step” in the right direction.

People over 60 should not wait for an adjusted Omicron vaccine, Lauterbach said in his tweet Monday. “The risk is already there. Existing vaccines protect against severe disease.”

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s disease prevention agency, did not immediately comment on the report.

According to Bild, a precondition for getting a fourth jab is that the first booster jab, or the person’s last bout of Covid was at least six months ago.

Up until now, Stiko has only recommended the second booster for people over 70 years of age, people in care facilities, people with immune deficiencies and those with an increased risk of severe Covid 19 symptoms, as well as staff in medical facilities and nursing homes.

The European Medical Agency (EMA) has previously called on member states to offer second booster jabs to people over 60. Lauterbach had also repeatedly brought a second booster for broader population groups into the discussion. 

READ ALSO: Omicron vaccines to arrive in Germany in September, says Health Minister