Published:  10:58 PM, 15 December 2021

Europe ramps up COVID-19 vaccine drive for children

Several European nations started vaccinating children aged five to 11 against Covid-19 on Wednesday (Dec 15) in an effort to contain a raging pandemic and keep schools open, while others are still deciding their approach. Germany, Spain, Greece and Hungary were among those opening up their inoculation drives to younger kids, with doctors reporting strong initial demand from parents amid concerns about the fast-spreading Omicron variant. Greek Education Minister Niki Kerameus was among the first to arrive at an Athens hospital to have her young son vaccinated, state TV ERT reported.

The country has so far registered more than 30,000 vaccine appointments for kids. The EU's medicines watchdog last month approved the Pfizer-BioNTech shot for five to 11-year-olds, an age group experiencing high corona virus infection rates across the continent. The vaccine is administered in a lower dosage than the Pfizer jab for over-12s, and comes in a pediatric vial with an orange cap to distinguish it from the purple-capped vials for older ages. Denmark, which has seen a surge in cases attributed to the new Omicron variant and some Austrian regions.

 already began offering jabs to younger kids in November.

The United States was the first large country to take the plunge and has so far vaccinated more than five million children in the 5-11 age bracket.
"As soon as we offered the vaccine appointments, they were pretty much all snapped up," said Jakob Maske, a Berlin-based doctor and spokesman for Germany's association of pediatricians.

But he downplayed expectations of the kids' jabs heralding a turning point in the fight against Covid-19, at a time when Germany is battling a fierce fourth wave."Five to 11-year-olds only make up around three percent of the German population," he told AFP, describing the kids' immunization impact as "a small cog" in the battle.

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