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Germany: Boosters for old and at-risk, jabs for teens

August 2, 2021

Federal and state health ministers have recommended COVID-19 booster shots for at-risk and elderly citizens. They also approved plans to vaccinate adolescents, despite pushback from the STIKO vaccine commission.

Medical workers administer a COVID-19 jab to an elderly woman in a wheelchair in Germany
Under the plan, elderly and at-risk citizens will get a vaccine booster to help protect them against the contagious delta variant of the virusImage: Matthias Bein/dpa/picture alliance

German health ministers on Monday unanimously approved a plan to begin administering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to elderly and at-risk citizens beginning September 1.

The move comes as the contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues its rapid spread and tests suggest vaccine efficacy fades after time. 

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn and the country's 16 state health ministers also voted to recommend vaccinating all 12-17 year olds, a move that exceeds guidelines set out by the country's vaccine regulator STIKO.

"We have enough vaccine for all. That's why it's good that the states also want to make vaccines easily available to this age group" said Spahn.

Is everyone on board with jabs for kids in Germany?

Monday's recommendation to vaccinate adolescents goes further than existing advisory guidelines set out by Germany's permanent vaccine commission, or STIKO.

The commission currently only advocates administering vaccinations to 12-17 year olds with certain pre-existing conditions, not blanket inoculation. 

Still, politicians say the time to act is now. "It is important that we don't waste time," said Bavarian State Health Minister Klaus Holetschek. 

Referring to the ministers' decision to overtake STIKO, Holetschek, who currently chairs the Conference of State Health Ministers, told German broadcaster ARD: "STIKO expressly said it didn't recommend it [blanket vaccination of teens] 'at the moment.' Nevertheless, the opportunity is there, and we are going to make use of it."

The EU medical authority European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 for people over the age of 12 this May. It has since approved the Moderna jab for the same age group.  

js/aw (AFP, dpa)