What the Stiko recommendation means for children
Corona vaccinations of children under twelve years in Germany are getting closer - but not yet on a large scale. The Standing Commission on Vaccination (Stiko) recommends vaccination initially only in the case of pre-existing conditions and for children with contact to risk patients, as it announced on Thursday. Healthy five to eleven-year-olds should be able to be vaccinated on request and after medical information, it was further stated.
Current figures of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) meanwhile show a further increase of Corona infections at schools. According to the figures, one in 40 students was recently directly or indirectly affected by Corona, either through their own infection or through quarantine measures.
Education ministers discussed the situation on Thursday. They were expected to reaffirm their position to keep schools open despite a tense situation. Results are to be announced at a press conference this Friday. The future president of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (KMK), Karin Prien (CDU), said on Deutschlandfunk radio that the school system was doing "valiantly" in this situation.
The recommendation of the Stiko on childhood vaccination, based at the Robert Koch Institute, is not yet the final recommendation. A coordination process is still underway with professional societies and the states. Changes are still possible. The reason given for the lack of a general vaccination recommendation for five to eleven-year-olds is that most infections in this age group are "asymptomatic".
Data basis according to Stiko boss not yet sufficient
Children without preexisting conditions are currently at low risk for severe covid-19, he said, adding that the risk of rare side effects of vaccination cannot currently be assessed due to limited data for this age group.
"From the Stiko's point of view, the data basis for a general recommendation is not given at the moment," Stiko head Thomas Mertens told German Press Agency. The president of the Professional Association of Pediatricians and Adolescents, Thomas Fischbach, welcomed the decision. A limited vaccination recommendation for children with certain chronic diseases is "reasonable," he told the "Rheinische Post" newspaper.
However, Stiko pointed out that healthy children could still be vaccinated if this is desired by parents and children. This would be possible even as it is because Biontech's lower-dose childhood vaccine has already been approved by the EU Medicines Agency (EMA). However, the vaccination recommendations of the Stiko are considered the medical standard and are an important guideline for many physicians.
The chief virologist at Berlin's Charité hospital, Christian Drosten, said he was "pleased with this decision." He told ARD's "Tagesthemen" that he could "really only advise having the children vaccinated," because of the school run, but also because of his own illness and with a "precautionary consideration" in case it should prove true that the illnesses in children are more severe due to the new virus variant Omikron, as is now being seen in South Africa.
Deliveries of the vaccine for children are scheduled to begin next week. In a first delivery, 2.4 million doses are expected in Germany. This will provide a good response to initial demand for around 4.5 million children in this age group, former German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) had said in November.
The number of known Corona infections among schoolchildren was 103,000 in the week from Nov. 29 to Dec. 5, according to KMK data released Thursday, about 10,000 more than the previous week. Slightly decreased to about 150,000, the number of students who were also in quarantine (previous week 152 000).
This is based on feedback from the federal states from more than 28,000 general education schools and vocational schools with about 10 million students. According to this, there were restrictions on attendance at around 1,500 schools last week (unchanged from the previous week). There were 86 closed schools (previous week 140).
Infection incidence in the states varies widely, and so do schools, Prien said. "Overall, though, I would say schools are handling the situation very routinely and professionally." She rejected an extension of Christmas vacations. In the end, she said, a vacation extension would be nothing more than a blanket school closure. To avoid this, the state of Berlin also wants to vaccinate schools.
"We have all decided together that it is crucial that children and young people can go to school in presence," she said. Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt had decided to bring forward their Christmas vacations by a few days in view of the situation. Prien is to take over the office of KMK president from Brandenburg's Education Minister Britta Ernst (SPD) at the turn of the year.
Image by Johaehn