German state vaccination centres roll out booster jabs for teenagers

The country’s vaccination committee doesn’t specifically recommend Covid-19 boosters for under 18s - but teens are still able to get one in a number of states.

A pop-up vaccination clinic
A helper dabs the arm of a patient with disinfectant at a pop-up Covid vaccination centre in a dance school in Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mona Wenisch

On Monday, teenagers in Rheinland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Baden-Württemberg started lining up for their Covid-19 booster shots, despite the country’s Standing Committee on Vaccination (Stiko) currently not recommending boosters for most people aged 12-17.

Following federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach’s green light for state governments to give boosters to teenagers if they choose to, vaccines have now been made available for 12-17 year-olds in select locations in these western states, such as the Gelsenkirchen Impfzentrum.

In order to get the jab, 12-17 year-olds going there must bring a parent or legal guardian with them to the vaccination centre. 

READ ALSO: German Schools Start Up Again as Omicron Cases Rise

Berlin’s state government has also confirmed that teenagers in the capital can get the jab as early as three months after their second doses. This is the same amount of time over-18s have to wait before being given an additional dose. 

Teenagers receiving a booster are still restricted to getting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with Moderna only being used in people over 30 years-old.

The move follows the delivery of a newly approved lower-dosed vaccine that’s suitable for children aged 5-11.

Paediatricians and a handful of vaccination centres around the country starting rolling out the jabs to young children after two million doses were delivered in December.

READ ALSO: State by state: Where children in Germany can get vaccinated against Covid

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Reader question: Can under-5s get vaccinated against Covid in Germany?

Vaccines for children aged six months to five-years-old are currently being rolled out in the United States. But can very young children also get a Covid jab in Germany?

Reader question: Can under-5s get vaccinated against Covid in Germany?

At the moment, only children aged five and above can get vaccinated against Covid-19 in Germany.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the use of a reduced dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine for children between the ages of five and 12, and this age group are able to get vaccinated by doctors at practices or at dedicated vaccine centres.

Back in May, Germany’s Standing Vaccines Commission (STIKO) issued a general Covid jab recommendation for 5-12 year olds. Previously, they had only recommended the shots to children with pre-existing conditions or vulnerable contacts.

READ ALSO: Germany’s vaccine panel recommends Covid jabs for all children over five

Of course, some parents are keen to get their younger children vaccinated as well – and news from the US, where both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech has recently been approved for children under five, has given them hope that the same will happen in Germany.

So what exactly is going on?

Well, at the moment, there does seem to be some movement in that direction, but things are still up in the air. 

Back in April, Moderna announced that it had submitted a request to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for a variation to the conditional marketing authorisation.

In plain English, this means they want permission to roll out a 25mg dose of their vaccine (as part of a two-dose series) for children aged six months to five years. This is the same dosage that is being used to vaccinate toddlers and babies in the US. 

In response to a question from The Local, Pfizer/BioNTech said it was also planning to file for authorisation for the under-fives vaccine from the EMA in early July. 

Depending on the EMA’s decision, this could pave the way for very young children to get the Covid jab in Germany.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the authorities will be recommending that all parents rush out and vaccinate their young’uns. 

Speaking to the Funke Media Group back in March, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) struck a cautious tone when talking about vaccines for under fives.

“In the studies, the vaccines have not shown the immunisation effect in young children that we had hoped for. But it is precisely in this age group that the effect must be particularly clearly proven,” he said.

“It is therefore unclear at the moment whether there will be a vaccination recommendation for under-fives in Germany.”

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

For its part, the EMA said it was in talks with Pfizer ahead of the submission of its application for approval.

“To date, no application for an extension of indication for the use of Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech) in children under five has been submitted to EMA,” a spokesperson for the EMA told The Local.

“However, EMA is in contact with the company about the possible submission of data and we will communicate on our website should we receive a request for an extension of indication.”

At the time of writing, the German Health Ministry and Robert Koch Institute (RKI) had not responded to a request for comment.