German vaccine panel recommends boosters for children over 12

The German Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends that young people aged 12-17 in Germany receive a Covid booster jab.

A young person with a plaster after a Covid jab in Berlin.
A young person with a plaster after a Covid jab in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

STIKO had been recommending that only people over the age of 18 receive a booster vaccination. 

However, German states had been handling booster shots for young people differently. Some have already been allowing young people aged 12 and over to get the top-up jab

At the end of December, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) clarified that children and young people between 12 and 17 should be allowed booster vaccinations “regardless of the recommendations” of STIKO.

Experts say a booster vaccination tops up immunity and improves protection in view of the Omicron variant.

The vaccine committee now recommends a booster jab for 12-17-year-olds with the mRNA vaccine Comirnaty from BioNTech/Pfizer “in the age-appropriate dosage”, and at least three months after the previous vaccination, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Thursday.

The draft decision still has to go through a review procedure with the federal states and experts.

Lauterbach welcomed the announcement from STIKO.

“Now all young people and their parents have certainty: boosters are also recommended for 12 to 17 year olds,” the SPD politician said.

On December 21st, STIKO advised that people in Germany should get a booster – or third jab – three months after their previous shot. 

Around 72.3 percent of the German population is fully vaccinated and about 45.1 percent have had boosters.

READ ALSO: Germany’s vaccine panel recommends Covid boosters after three months

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now