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Summer vaccines for German youths, vows health minister

May 11, 2021

Health Minister Jens Spahn has raised hopes that young teens in Germany will be able to get a coronavirus jab before Europe's long summer vacation ends.

Students walk outside a school in Düsseldorf, Germany
Young teens in Germany could soon be vaccinated at school, the health minister saidImage: Rupert Oberhäuser/picture alliance

All of Germany's 12 to 15-year-olds could be offered at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of their summer vacations, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Tuesday.

The remarks come as officials anticipate the EU's medicines agency will soon license vaccinations for young teens.

"The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said that today: If nothing unforeseen happens, at the end of May, beginning of June, the approval can be granted," he told public radio Deutschlandfunk.

The approval would apply to the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, which has been given the green light for youths by regulators in the US and Canada.

Span gestures with his hands at a press conference in Berlin
Spahn voiced hope that adolescents could soon be offered a BioNTech-Pfizer jab once regulators approve it for kidsImage: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture alliance

Because Germany's 16 states stagger their school summer breaks to avoid transport network overloads, the time frame for when pupils could be offered a jab could depend on where they live.

Several northern German states end their summer vacations on July 31, whereas late-starters, notably Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, end their breaks in mid-September. 

Injections could take place at school

The federal government and state leaders have already agreed that students could be offered their doses either at school or be invited to visit local vaccinations centers run by Germany's more than 400 rural counties and major municipalities, Spahn said.

One third of all Germany's residents have now received at least a first injection, said Spahn, citing Germany's Robert Koch Institute.

He also urged senior citizens to not to shun other manufacturers' vaccines.

"In fact, I can only appeal to those over 60 who are offered an AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccine to accept it," said Spahn.

"These vaccines are very good and very effective, in some cases even more effective than BioNTech, especially among the elderly,'' he said.

"If we can keep this up together, it can be a good summer," said Spahn as Germany's infection rate per 100,000 residents sank further Tuesday to 115.

Still, he cautioned against overconfidence.

Warnings about queue-jumping

The head of Germany's patient advocacy foundation (Stiftung Patientenschutz) Eugen Brysch warned on Tuesday of lesser-prioritized persons jumping queues administered online by authorities.

Eugen Brysch, chair of the Germany patient advocacy foundation gesturing
"Thousands" have been caught jumping vaccination queues, says BryschImage: Imago/M. Popow

"Although thousands are caught, there is a lack of sanctions," said Brysch.

"Report Mainz," the investigative magazine of ARD public television, said vaccination centers observed aggressive vaccine-seekers trying to sneak jabs. 

Using trickery to get appointments earlier than stipulated in government priority rankings was "deeply indecent," said Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus, health expert of the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP).

"People's impatience is understandable, but it does not excuse the use of tricks,'' she said, indirectly endorsing Brysch's call for sanctions on queue-jumpers.

ipj/rs (dpa, Reuters)