The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has given the green light to the use of BioNTech and Pfizer’s corona vaccine in children aged five to eleven. The responsible EMA committee recommended an extension of the approval on Thursday. The final decision has yet to be made by the European Commission. But this is a matter of form.
This means that there will soon be a corresponding recommendation from the National Vaccination Committee (NIG) in Austria, probably in the next few days. The Austrian Ministry of Health expects that the first children’s vaccine against Corona will be available across the EU towards the end of 2021, including in Austria.
In Israel and the USA, BioNTech / Pfizer’s own vaccine is already available for children from the age of five. In Austria there are so far only so-called off-label vaccinations for children under twelve. One third of the adult dose is given to children. Interested parents have to look for a doctor who will vaccinate their offspring. In the future, the vaccine specially developed for children will then be administered.
Vienna with a pioneering role
Vienna already took on a pioneering role in off-label vaccination in November. The city created a way that kids from the age of five can be immunized against corona – with just one third of the dose for adults. From November 15th, the first children could be immunized in the Austria Center Vienna, the first appointments were quickly booked out.
According to figures published on Wednesday, the Vienna vaccination center has so far vaccinated a total of 9,167 children under twelve. Most of them – 7,486 or 81.7 percent – came from Vienna. 1,612 or 17.6 percent came from other federal states, with Lower Austria accounting for the largest proportion with 1,396 or 15.2 percent, according to the office of City Councilor for Health Peter Hacker (SPÖ). On Tuesday alone, 1,165 children were vaccinated in Vienna, 976 (83.7 percent) live in the federal capital. After the first week of vaccination was such a great success, more appointments were made for that week. From Monday 2 p.m. to Wednesday 1 p.m., 8,898 new appointments were booked.
Lower Austria starts on Thursday
Lower Austria is also making rapid progress, where the first vaccinations for five to eleven year olds are due to start on Thursday. Immunization is possible in the vaccination centers in St. Pölten, Tulln and Wiener Neustadt in the so-called child vaccination lines – these are age-appropriate and staffed with experienced staff. The injections will also be administered in the Impfstraßen in Baden and Traiskirchen (Baden district) and at 35 resident doctors, according to the LHStv office. Stephan Pernkopf (ÖVP). There are also individual paediatricians who order vaccines themselves and vaccinate them directly. Further possibilities are to be created in the coming days.
Registrations in Lower Austria can generally be made online via www.impfung.at/termin or can be done by some paediatricians. Around 10,000 appointments have already been booked, and a further 18,000 were available.
In Upper Austria, children between the ages of five and eleven have also been preregistered for the vaccination for just under a week. As of Wednesday, there had been 2,600 such reservations, according to a broadcast by Deputy Governor Christine Haberlander (ÖVP), who is also responsible for health. And the waiting list is getting longer every day. As soon as the recommendation of the NIG is there, vaccination appointments can be booked. It should be possible to have children vaccinated by both resident doctors and public vaccination routes.
In the meantime, around 1,600 children in Upper Austria have been vaccinated off-label. After the approval by the EMA and the recommendation of the NIG are imminent, the country is offering child vaccinations in “off-label campaigns” for the coming weekend, November 26th to 28th. The Haberlander office announced that up to 2,000 stitches are planned. Medical experts of the crisis team have spoken out in favor of this action together with the medical association. Parents who have already registered their children for a vaccination on the waiting list are already informed about vaccination options by SMS. As soon as EMA approval has been granted, further offers and plans are to be presented.
In Tyrol, it has also been possible to vaccinate children between the ages of five and eleven since last week. So far, 1,120 children have been given a vaccine dose, which corresponds to 2.2 percent of this age group. Vaccination takes place in “numerous vaccination centers in the country” as well as in some district hospitals – such as in Reutte or St. Johann. The offer will also be available on the coming “Vaccination Sunday” and with resident doctors. In any case, registration is necessary for children. Often the vaccinations and the educational talk are carried out by paediatricians. In addition, children’s vaccination boxes are set up “child-friendly”, there is more time available than with adults and at the end the children are awarded a certificate.
In Styria, it has been possible to register children for the corona vaccination using the well-known registration tool of the State of Styria since Tuesday. For the time being, two vaccination appointments are planned on December 4th and 5th in the vaccination streets in Graz, Premstätten and Leoben. However, further locations may well be added by then, said Harald Eitner, who is responsible for the vaccination routes in the state of Styria. Doctors in private practice have already administered the vaccination to children in individual cases, says Eitner. Until now, the respective doctor has borne the risk of this. With the expected recommendation of the EMA, there will be a liability relief for the doctors on the vaccination streets in the future. As of Wednesday afternoon, according to Eitner, 837 children were registered for the vaccination, 721 of them on vaccination streets, the others with resident doctors.
In Vorarlberg there were around 260 reservations for child vaccinations by the middle of the week. This can be done on the vaccination portal of the state (“Vorarlberg vaccines”). After the EMA gave the green light for child vaccination, the state sent out invitations to those who had reserved. The first immunizations are to be carried out from Friday (November 26th) and will be administered by pediatricians at two locations. Subsequently, children between the ages of five and eleven are to be vaccinated every weekend in the Impfstraßen in Nenzing (District Bludenz) and Bregenz or Dornbirn.
In Salzburg, child vaccinations are also in the “starting blocks”, said a spokeswoman for health officer LHStv. Christian Stöckl (ÖVP). After the EMA decision, one will probably no longer wait for approval by the national vaccination committee and start vaccinations as soon as possible. There are 38,000 children between the ages of five and eleven in Salzburg, but there are no figures for pre-registrations or children who have already been vaccinated “off label”. What is certain, however, is that the pediatricians should form the backbone of vaccinations in Salzburg – nevertheless, children’s vaccination routes are also being considered.
Burgenland is still waiting for the decision of the EMA regarding the corona vaccination for children. As soon as these are available and sufficient vaccines are delivered, the youngest will start, according to the Coronavirus coordination staff at the APA. Pre-registration is already possible and desirable. The planning is already underway, but initially there will be no open vaccination days for children, but vaccinations with appointments.
In Carinthia, too, there is currently no way to make reservations for child vaccinations, state spokesman Gerd Kurath told the APA on Wednesday. Since the system of reservations for vaccinations for adults will be switched to appointment bookings on November 30th, “there is basically nothing to prevent appointment bookings for child vaccinations being possible”. However, he does not know to what extent you can already make a note of yourself with pediatricians.
We are still waiting for the specific approval, but primarily the vaccinations would be carried out in the pediatric and adolescent doctor area. In some vaccination centers, however, they also want to set up their own children’s vaccination routes. However, you have to see how many you can fill since “there aren’t too many pediatricians in the country”. (apa)