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Covid vaccine

EU regulator approves covid vaccine for children under 12



Children between the age of 5 and 12 should also be vaccinated with Pfizer/BioNTech, says EU drug watchdog EMA. Currently, children in that age bracket are witnessing the highest increase of infections. Photo: Shutterstock

Children between the age of 5 and 12 should also be vaccinated with Pfizer/BioNTech, says EU drug watchdog EMA. Currently, children in that age bracket are witnessing the highest increase of infections. Photo: Shutterstock

The European Medicines Agency on 25 November authorised the use of the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 after previously authorising the jab for children above the age of twelve.

In Luxembourg, and elsewhere in Europe, children who are 11 or younger are not yet vaccinated. Dr Thérèse Staub, head of infectious diseases at the CHL hospital,  during a recent press conference, had said that children of that age bracket were not yet being considered for vaccination. The EMA’s new recommendation might change that.

The government on Wednesday said that the number of new infections among children between ages 0 and 9 had jumped 60% over the last week. This accounts for 336 of the 1,897 new cases recorded.

The grand duchy doesn’t have its own drugs regulator and largely relies on authorisation by the EMA. A national infectious diseases council, the CDMI, has been advising the government on its vaccination strategy, providing input on who should get the inoculation and when. It most recently recommended that booster shots be offered to all over 18s six months after the completion of their initial vaccination schedule. 

Younger children will only receive a third of the dose administered to those above the age of twelve, the EMA said. A study on 2,000 children--663 of which received a placebo--showed that those vaccinated were much less likely to be infected. “In this study, the vaccine was 90.7% effective at preventing symptomatic covid-19 (although the true rate could be between 67.7% and 98.3%),” the EMA said in a statement.

The agency said it would continuously monitor the safety of the vaccine and that secondary effects among children were the same as for adults, ranging from slight headaches to muscle pain, tiredness and chills.

Thursday’s recommendation follows similar decisions by Canada and the US, and comes a month after the EMA announced that it was evaluating the use of the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine for children between ages 5 and 11. 

Currently, 77% of the eligible population has received a complete vaccination cover, though the rate is far from the 85% target set by prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP). Luxembourg’s chief medical officer Jean-Claude Schmit has said the country already is in the throes of a fourth wave of the virus.

Elsewhere in Europe, restrictions are tightened and lockdowns are being set in place, like in Austria where a nationwide lockdown was reinstated, and the Netherlands where a partial one was imposed.

Luxembourg’s health care professionals held a minute of silence on Thursday to protest the anti-vaccine movement and to raise awareness on the complications of a covid-19 infection.