Berlin The federal and state governments want to allow millions of Covid-19 vaccines for children and adolescents. But parents should be able to make their own decisions and should not be coerced in any way to get their children vaccinated.
Children over the age of 12 will be able to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in Germany starting on June 7. This was decided by the federal and state governments at a vaccination summit in Berlin on Thursday.
The prerequisite is that the EU Medicines Agency (EMA) also approves the vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer for this age group, which was previously approved for children over 16. The EMA will discuss the matter this Friday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) reiterated the goal "that by the end of the summer every resident be offered a vaccination." This should also include 12- to 16-year-olds, she said.
In their resolution, the federal and state governments stipulate that children and adolescents 12 years of age and older "should seek vaccination appointments after the end of the prioritization period, i.e., generally from June 7, 2021, in a comparable manner to other vaccination-seekers who are not subject to prioritization," especially from physicians in private practice. Merkel promised that children with pre-existing conditions would be vaccinated as a priority - if the Standing Commission on Vaccination (Stiko) so advises in its expected recommendation. This would then apply similarly to adults.
Role of the Standing Commission on Vaccination
The Stiko wants to complete its evaluation within a week and a half, as Stiko member Martin Terhardt told RBB. One option could be a vaccination recommendation only for the chronically ill. A general recommendation for vaccination is opposed by a lack of data on possible risks of infections and vaccinations.
Merkel explained, "Vaccinating children is a very sensitive act." She said the Stiko will ask how great the advantages are and how big the impact is. She said the Stiko will be guided only by the question "What does it mean for the individual child?"
Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) said, "In the end, it is a well-balanced decision by children, parents, doctors and physicians." As criteria, he cited, "What are pre-existing conditions, what is the personal situation, the family situation, what are the benefits, what are the risks of a Covid-19 infection, which of course also vary across age groups?”
Merkel said it will not be possible to make everyone an offer (for a vaccine) even after June 7. "We don't have any additional vaccines for this," said Berlin's governing mayor, Michael Müller (SPD), who chairs the conference of state premiers. For children 12 and older, offers can also be made in vaccination centers or specific programs set up in the states, according to the federal-state decision. The health ministers of the federal states had already decided that all children over the age of 12 should be offered vaccinations by the end of August.
In a report to the states, the Federal Ministry of Health calculated that with 5.3 million people between the ages of 12 and 18 and an assumed vaccination readiness of 60 percent, there was a need for 3.18 million doses each for the first and second vaccination.
Vaccinations and schooling
Merkel emphasized, "Safe schooling will continue to be completely independent of whether a child is vaccinated or not." For daycare and elementary school children, she said, this is the case anyway due to the lack of an approved vaccine. "There should also be no indirect coercion."
This also applies to vacations, she said. "Both in other European countries and in Germany, you can go on vacation even if you don't have a vaccination, because the tests will then of course be completely sufficient as prerequisites for the vacation offers," Merkel said.
Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) said, "No one has to be vaccinated. (...) We want to make vaccination offers, but there is no vaccination obligation.”
The federal and state governments emphasized that the vaccination campaign has gained significant momentum since the beginning of the second quarter. Almost 35 million Germans (41.5 percent) have had at least their first vaccine shot, and 13 million (15.7 percent) have been fully vaccinated. The number of new infections is falling significantly in all German states. More than 75 percent of the over-60s have had at least one shot on average in Germany, and more than 30 percent are fully vaccinated, the health department said.
In its report to the states, Spahn's department noted, "Even after the lifting of vaccination prioritization, the states will ensure that any latecomers from the prioritization groups can receive an offer of vaccination as soon as possible."
More than 31 million Covid-19 vaccine doses are expected to be delivered in Germany next month, health department data show. Of the 80 million vaccine doses originally promised for the entire second quarter, 31 million have already been delivered. However, Astrazeneca and Johnson&Johnson issued notifications of deliveries only at short notice, complicating the organization, he said. Overall, 88 percent of the vaccine doses delivered have been used in the states - ranging from 76 percent in Brandenburg to 98 percent in Bremen. 91 percent were vaccinated with Biontech/Pfizer, 76 percent with Moderna and 87 percent with the Astrazeneca vaccine. For Johnson&Johnson, where only one dose is needed, the reported rate so far is only 35 percent. According to the Ministry of Health, no delivery plans have yet been made for the third quarter, except by Moderna - more than 120 million doses of the vaccine are expected.
According to EU sources, U.S. manufacturer Johnson&Johnson is indicating delivery problems. The 55 million doses of vaccine expected for the second quarter will probably not be reached, Deutsche Presse-Agentur learned in Brussels. The background for the delay is a production stoppage in the U.S. and U.S. export restrictions.
(Orig. text: Basil Wegener, Ulrich Steinkohl, dpa/Translation: ck)