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.

Covid vaccination for children in Germany
A paediatrician gives a young girl in Saxony a Covid jab. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jan Woitas

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.

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

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. 

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

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. 

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What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

With Covid cases rising, many people in Germany are wondering if they should get a fourth Covid jab - or second booster. Here's what you should keep in mind.

What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

German states have started giving out new Covid vaccines that are specially adapted to the Omicron variant.

Though the Omicron variant is believed to cause milder courses of illness than earlier variants like Delta, it’s known for being highly transmissible and is often able to evade the body’s immune responses. 

In September, three Omicron vaccines received EU-wide approval: two vaccines from BioNTech and Moderna adapted to the BA.1 sub-variant, and another Omicron booster from BioNTech to protect against the dominant BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants. 

Who should get the fourth Covid shot (second booster)?

People who belong to ‘at risk’ groups should think about getting a booster shot this autumn.

The official recommendation from the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) stipulates that people over the age of 60 should get a further booster vaccination.

In addition, people over the age of 12 who have an underlying condition that can lead to severe illness with Covid-19 should also get a shot.

Experts also recommend that residents and staff in nursing homes or long-term care facilities receive a fourth jab.

READ ALSO: When – and how – people can get the new Omicron vaccine in Germany

In STIKO’s latest guidance dated September 20th, experts also say that it may be appropriate for people at particular risk, for instance the very elderly or people with immunodeficiency, to get another shot (a fifth jab) after the fourth vaccination, although that would depend on several factors and a medical consultation. 

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany.

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

Should people under the age of 60 get a fourth jab?

If people don’t fall into a risk group and are under the age of 60, they can still receive a fourth vaccination, although it’s not officially recommended. You should have a consultation with your GP – or a doctor carrying out Covid vaccinations – if you are interested in getting the fourth jab. 

How do vaccination centres handle people under 60 who want to get another Covid shot?

There have been occasional reports in Germany that younger people who don’t belong to a risk group have been turned away from vaccination centres because they don’t qualify for a booster jab. 

However, The Local has anecdotally heard that people have been able to get a jab from a vaccination station or centre, regardless of their health condition or age.

A spokesperson at the health department of the city Munich told broadcaster BR24 that carrying out a fourth vaccination is decided on a case-by-case basis and is a decision taken by the medical expert giving out the jab “in each case”.

Where is the fourth vaccination available? 

There are still lots of walk-in vaccination centres across the country, while many doctors and pharmacies also carry out jabs. You should search online or contact your GP for more information. 

Many towns and cities are reporting a significant increase in demand since the new vaccines adapted for Omicron variants became available.

READ ALSO: Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

How many people in Germany have been vaccinated?

According to official figures, 76.3 percent of the German population has received two Covid jabs. Just over 62 percent have also received a booster jab, and 9.9 percent have been given a second booster vaccination.

Around 18.4 million people (22.2 percent) in Germany are not vaccinated. For four million of these people aged 0 to four years (4.8 percent), no licensed vaccine is available.

Does getting the flu vaccination help against Covid?

Coronaviruses and the flu are different viruses, so the flu jab cannot protect against Covid-19. However, those who have a weaker immune system can strengthen their body in fighting a virus by getting a flu shot, according to experts. The immune system can then better use resources it saves against a possible Covid infection.

The fourth Covid jab and the flu shot can be administered to patients at the same time, according to the STIKO – although they don’t have to be.

If this is the case, the injections are given in different arms. However, it could be the case that patients have a stronger reaction if both jabs are carried out at the same time, so keep that in mind. 

READ ALSO: Can anyone in Germany get a second Covid booster jab?