Germany to roll out Covid vaccinations for 5-11 year olds
Following EU approval for use on 5-11 year olds, a lower-dose Covid vaccine will be distributed throughout Germany this week as many states finalise their plans to vaccinate young children.
The Standing Vaccines Commission (STIKO) has initially recommended vaccination for 5-11 year olds who have risk factors for severe Covid-19, or have relatives who are classified as high-risk.
However, healthy children will also have the opportunity to get vaccinated after a consultation with a doctor, the vaccine panel said.
More than 2.2 million doses of the children's vaccine will be distributed to pharmaceutical wholesalers this week, with each state receiving a certain quota, the Health Ministry revealed on Sunday. Paediatricians and other medical practices will be able to order the doses they need from pharmacies.
According to the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, practices have so far ordered about 800,000 doses for this week, which will be delivered between Monday and Wednesday as states kick off their child vaccination campaigns.
Speaking to the Rheinische Post on Monday, Thomas Fischer, the head of the German Paediatricians Association said he believed most of his colleagues had already finalised their preparations for rolling out the jabs to 5-11 year olds.
"The preparations are largely complete because the STIKO recommendation was expected," he said.
In addition to paediatricians' surgeries, children will be able to visit some of the larger vaccination centres to get their shots - though not in every state. In some regions, special vaccination campaigns for children are also being planned - for example at Berlin Zoo and the Natural History Museum, and in Lower Saxony at the home stadium of Hannover '96 FC.
The chair of the Federal Association of Public Health Service Doctors (BVÖGD), Ute Teichert, believes that in the long term, children should receive Covid jabs at schools and daycare centres - for example when booster vaccinations are due. At the moment, however, offering them through paediatricians and through separate queues in the vaccination centres is the right way, Teichert told the Rheinische Post.
For 5-11 year olds, lower doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are required. These are prepared and stored in brightly coloured capsules to prevent them being mixed up with the adult doses.
According to STIKO, two low doses of the Pfizer vaccine should be issued 3-6 weeks apart.
Welcoming the news, Family Minister Anne Spiegel (Greens) said the vaccine roll-out would be a "huge relief" to 5-11 year olds and their families. Child-friendly vaccination drives would now be needed everywhere in the country, she told the Funke Media Group.
Meanwhile, the new Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) - who has said she will prioritise keeping schools open during the Covid pandemic - sees children's vaccinations as a means of safeguarding classroom attendance.