London: Even as the Omicron variant continues to spread, European nations including Germany, Hungary, Greece, and Spain have started vaccinating children as young as five and up to 11 years of age, against Covid-19 from Wednesday.
The vaccine administered will be of lower dose than the Pfizer jab for over-12s. It also comes in a paediatric vial with an orange cap to distinguish it from the purple-capped vials for older ages, the Daily Mail reported.
The European Union’s medicines watchdog European Medicines Agency, last month, approved the Pfizer-BioNTech shot for five to 11-year-olds. Denmark and Austria began inoculating younger kids in November.
The US was the first country to start vaccinating small kids, and it has inoculated more than five million children aged five to 11.
“As soon as we offered the vaccine appointments, they were pretty much all snapped up,” Jakob Maske, a Berlin-based doctor and spokesman for Germany’s association of paediatricians, was quoted as saying.
While Germany’s STIKO vaccine commission officially recommended the jab only for children with pre-existing conditions, even healthy children will be inoculated if the parents request it, the report said.
In Germany, officials plan to administer kids’ jabs in museums and zoos, while others are mulling mobile vaccination teams outside schools.
Meanwhile, in Greece, more than 20,000 parents have booked vaccine appointments for their kids from Wednesday.
Spain, which has one of Europe’s highest Covid-19 vaccination rates, said it was launching its immunisation campaign for five to 11-year-olds with the goal of breaking the chain of infection “in family settings, schools and the community”. The country has around 3.3 million children within that age group.
In a bid to spur vaccine take-up, the Spanish government has also released a television commercial showing kids getting the shot so they can “help end the virus and protect the elderly”, the report said.
Other European countries including Italy, Portugal, Poland, the Baltic states and the Czech Republic are also set to launch similar vaccination drives in the coming days.
In France, vaccination has only been approved for five to 11-year-olds at risk of developing serious illness, but the government has said it is considering extending it to all children on a voluntary basis.
Belgium is awaiting the recommendation of its national health body, with a rollout likely around the new year, while Switzerlanda¿s medical agency has given green light for kids’ vaccines. The country is set to start the campaign in early January.
Further, British health regulators are also assessing whether to approve jabs for the 5-11 age group, and a decision is likely before Christmas.
The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is reportedly “urgently” reviewing data on Covid jabs for children.
As a result, medics in England have been told to start preparing for the mass vaccination of children as young as five years old, leaked documents have revealed, the report said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday said that Omicron is expected to be the dominant Covid variant in the 27-nation bloc by mid-January, the report said. With 66.6 per cent of the European population now fully vaccinated against Covid, the bloc is well prepared to fight Omicron, she added.