POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Over 18s can sign up for AZ, Johnson vaccines



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Luxembourg hopes to speed up its vaccination campaign by allowing over 18s to sign up for the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs. Photo: Romain Gamba 

Young people in Luxembourg will be able to voluntarily sign up for the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines starting Saturday to speed up the country’s vaccination campaign. 

Luxembourg is in the sixth and final stage of its vaccination drive, with people under 30 expected to receive their vaccine invitations from next week. This week, invitations went out to people aged 39 to 33, prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) said during a press briefing on Friday.

“AstraZeneca is a vaccine that isn’t the most popular with everyone, but it works and has found takers in Luxembourg,” Bettel said. Luxembourg in April had decided to give people aged 30 to 54 the choice to sign up to receive the Vaxzevria shot after the European Medicines Agency had included a rare type of blood clot among the vaccine’s possible side effects.

This online waiting list on Saturday will be opened to anyone aged 18 or over, with the choice of the AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. People can also sign up for both and will be invited for whichever becomes available first.

Thousands of vaccine doses could be administered as early as next week to people signing up to the list, Bettel said. “It allows to give young people, who are asking when it’s finally their turn, a perspective,” he said about the new system.

In an optimistic scenario, everyone aged 18 or over will have received an invitation to get their first vaccine shot by mid-July, Bettel said. This depends on the number of people signing up to the voluntary list as well as the arrival of scheduled deliveries.

Vaccinating under 18s

The government on Friday also decided to follow an EMA recommendation, allowing the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine to be given to children aged 12 or over. The vaccination of this younger age group should begin over the summer, with vulnerable groups to come first.

“The risk is small, but it’s there,” health minister Paulette Lenert (LSAP) said about serious infections among children. She said that fewer than 1 in 1,000 cases among children in Luxembourg were grave. But four children had to be treated in intensive care so far.

“Children and young people present a large part of the population,” Lenert said. As older age groups are being immunised, they will increasingly be subject of the virus spread.

Just over half of the adult population so far has received at least one vaccine dose, the prime minister said. Around a third is fully vaccinated.

Free testing

To allow people who are yet to be fully vaccinated to take part in the CovidCheck programme--which allows parties of up to 300 people or indoor restaurant service without restrictions--the large-scale testing programme will become a first-come, first-served testing station.

Calling it an “open bar”, the health minister said that the online booking system will become available without an invitation in the coming weeks. People wanting to visit a CovidCheck venue or event can get tested for free. “We think people should get their freedoms but with the guarantee that they are not contagious,” the premier said.

A sample of 3,000 people will continue to be invited for monitoring purposes and antibody tests will also continue.

The premier once again warned fraudsters. “If there are rules, it’s to gain freedoms back. The last thing we want is to pull the handbrake and take a step back.” People using a certificate that is not their own but also venues violating rules will face fines, he said.

Addressing the hospitality sector, Bettel warned that they would be the first to have to close if the pandemic once again got out of control. “We hope that we will be able to find a normal life. Let’s not do anything we’ll regret and must have new restrictions,” he said.