In March, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the mega-deal with BioNTech/Pfizer, as politicians are urging vaccinations for schoolchildren. But German scientists are hesitant about injecting children with this product.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German state prime ministers discussed on Thursday, among other things, Corona vaccinations for children. The aim is to offer vaccinations to all children aged twelve and over by the end of August.
But there is one more problem. Before this, the EU Medicines Agency (EMA) has to decide on approval for the vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer, which had previously only been approved for ages 16 and over. This is expected to happen on Friday.
Von der Leyen announced in April that an agreement had been reached with the vaccine manufacturer BioNTech/Pfizer on a volume of 900 million doses. Another 900 million have been optionally secured. “I am convinced that we will take this long-term,” said Von der Leyen.
According to an internal paper by the Commission, the EU is already planning up to 510 million booster doses in 2022 and 2023. In it, the number of vaccinations for children and adolescents is put at 130 million for 2022 and 65 million for 2023. But the EU’s game is not without risk. So far, no vaccine for children and adolescents has been approved in the international community.
Von der Leyen has always emphasized how important the “voice of science” is when it comes to injecting populations on a global scale. “We need scientific advice about who to vaccinate, how to vaccinate, and in what order,” she said, adding, “It’s not a political decision, it’s clearly an evidence-based, scientific decision.”
But right now the “scientific voice” can not be heard above the ever louder media push for children to take part in the “world experiment” as the German government’s advisor, the virologist Alexander Kekulé emphasized. “Before children are also vaccinated against Covid, we have to carefully weigh the benefits and risks. Emergency approval is not as clearly affirmed here as with adults. There are some arguments for and against here.”
In the event of EMA approval, the Standing Committee on Vaccination at the Robert Koch Institute [Ständige Impfkommission am Robert-Koch-Institut] or STIKO as it is known, reserves the right to clarify its own recommendations for a possible vaccination. STIKO member Rüdiger von Kries does not currently expect that there will be a general vaccination recommendation for all children. He had said on Tuesday evening that at the moment hardly anything is known about the side effects of Corona vaccinations on children. “If the risk is unclear, I cannot currently predict that there will be a vaccination recommendation for a general vaccination.”
Another STIKO member Martin Terhardt told the RBB broadcaster radio one, that they were waiting for data from the US. “But that will certainly not be available until next week.”
The head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV) Andreas Gassen welcomed the hesitation from STIKO. When asked whether he considered such a decision to be the right one, he told the Handelsblatt : “Yes. It would be quite understandable if STIKO did not make a vaccination recommendation. The availability of studies on the risk of infection in children are very meagre so far.”
Pediatricians from Cologne have warned against children and adolescents being required to have a Corona vaccination. The doctors are very concerned that Education Minister Anja Karliczek (CDU) wants to introduce a “vaccination through the back door” and that immunization could take place in schools, said the spokesman for the Federal Association of Pediatricians, Axel Gerschlauer, according to the German daily the Rheinische Post on Wednesday.
Gerschlauer demanded that vaccination should not be a prerequisite for going to school. He also expressed concern that vaccinations at school could lead to vaccination reactions, such as shock. Although this is rare, one does not want to experience such an incident in school.
On Tuesday, Karliczek demanded that the federal and state vaccination summit deal with vaccinations for young people next week. “It would be desirable if there could be a vaccination schedule for children and adolescents from the age of twelve in all federal states very soon,” she told the newspapers of the Funke media group on Tuesday.
Her call was amplified by German Health Minister. “One way to get regular lessons after the summer vacation is vaccinating the youngsters,” said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) to Bild am Sonntag. However, this vaccine for 12 to 16 year olds has not yet been approved by the European authorities. But it should happen soon, he said.
The Federal Association of Pediatricians had previously warned that there should be no vaccination by government order or an institutionally enforced vaccination. And that vaccination should only take place after individual consideration of the reasons for the vaccination and that access to education, sport and social contacts should not be made dependent on the children’s vaccination status.
The chairman of STIKO, Thomas Mertens, did not rule out that STIKO could refuse to recommend the Corona vaccination for children and adolescents, he told Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday.
“We have to remember that the most important thing, if we want to start a child vaccination, a general child vaccination, is the well-being of the children.” That means that it must be clarified to what extent there is a medical justification for this vaccination. Arguments in favour of vaccination, such as the opening of schools, participation in life or vacations, are “secondary arguments” that do not provide sufficient grounds for vaccinating children.
STIKO is currently working on the clarification of the question of how great the risk to children from an infection with Sars-Cov-2 is. For this “the whole world literature will be evaluated”. That is the prerequisite for justifying a vaccination for the well-being of the children.
The City and County of San Francisco, California, meanwhile has issued an “Order of the Health Officer” that explicitly allows “minors to consent to receive the Covid-19 vaccine” and legally allows medical providers in the city to rely on that consent only, ignoring the wishes of parents.
Order of the Health Officer No. C19-19 explicitly allows this. In the summary of the order, Acting Health Officer Susan Philip asserts that “Minors under the age of 18 are showing increasing numbers of infection” and notes that “California law does not generally allow such minors to consent to receipt of the vaccine” due to their age. Philip also noted that while many parents would consent to their child being vaccinated, “that is not true in all situations.” Philips declared that, “It remains vital” that “every person, including minors, who wants to receive the vaccine be given the opportunity.”
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