Stickers and superheroes: EU starts vaccinating children aged 5 to 11
Greece, Italy and a handful of other countries in the European Union on Wednesday began immunizing children aged 5 to 11 against COVID-19, as EU governments braced for the both to a period of holiday gatherings and to the rapidly spreading variant of omicron.
Acrobats dressed as superheroes rappelled along the walls of a hospital in Milan, Italy, as the city prepared to join the rollout of the new vaccine. Wearing capes and coveralls, they stopped to greet patients from the windows of a pandemic ward and other children from a pediatric wing.
Young people who got their first injection in Greece were given stickers and a day off from school. Greece administered its first shots to young children hours after authorities announced the country’s highest daily death toll of 130. Among the first to respond, the Greek Minister of Education, Niki Kerameus.
“I will not hide from you that on a personal level, after discussing with doctors and receiving scientific data, our family decided to vaccinate our son, who is 5 and a half years old,” Kerameus said before taking his son away. , Loukas. , to be vaccinated in a hospital in Athens.
Dr Franco Locatelli, head of the Italian Superior Health Council who guided the country during the first wave of the pandemic, urged Italian families to participate in the new vaccination program, hoping to increase the vaccination rate the country’s already high amid a new spike in infections.
“Take this as a call to all families,” Locatelli said. “Take advantage of this opportunity. Talk to your pediatrician. Vaccinate your children. Do it for them. Show them how much you love your children by giving them the maximum protection possible. Spain and Hungary have also extended their vaccination programs to young children. EU regulators last month approved a reduced-dose vaccine manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech for use in the 5-11 age group.
A two-month rise in infections across Europe eased slightly in early December, but the appearance of the omicron variant has created uncertainty. According to a Tuesday analysis of data from South Africa, where omicron is leading to an increase in infections, the variant appears to spread more easily from person to person and evade vaccines better, but also milder.
A senior EU official said on Wednesday that the bloc expects omicron to dominate infections in the EU by mid-January. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has suggested governments consider travel restrictions and continue with vaccination campaigns and recalls.
Childhood vaccines are voluntary in all EU countries and require parental approval.
Spanish authorities have set an ambitious target for immunizing young children before regular family reunions at Christmas. Almost 90% of the country’s residents aged 12 and over have received two doses of the vaccine.
“I am encouraged to see so many parents with their children here,” Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias said during a visit to a school in Toledo, central Spain, where injections have been given. were administered on Wednesday. A 40-second video ad from the Spanish Ministry of Health featured child actors saying, “It’s our turn. Our vaccines are finally here! Grandmother and grandfather, mom and dad, uncles and aunts and our teacher have already been vaccinated.
Poland, Portugal, Croatia and Slovenia plan to lower their vaccine eligibility age later this week.
Several hundred people demonstrated on Wednesday outside the seat of government in Zagreb, the Croatian capital. The protesters chanted “Don’t kill our children! and “We will not give you our children!”
The World Health Organization says more evidence is needed on COVID-19 vaccines in children so that it can make general recommendations on their use in children. It also says vaccines should generally be reserved for those most vulnerable to severe COVID-19 disease, which includes the elderly, people with weaker immune systems and healthcare workers.
Some EU countries are taking a more cautious approach to immunizing young children. Germany has launched a regional rollout, the Netherlands are waiting for the end of the holidays and France is prioritizing children with heart and respiratory problems, obesity and diabetes.
Britain has been slower than many European countries to start immunizing children aged 12 to 15, and has yet to approve vaccines for young children. Wei Shen Lim, a member of the British Joint Committee on Vaccination and Vaccination, said the group expected to make a decision before Christmas but was awaiting a recommendation from UK regulators.
Conservative lawmaker Jeremy Hunt, former health minister, has criticized the delay in approving vaccines for young children.
“Our regulators, having been the most agile in the world, are now taking too long,” he said.
Winfield reported from Rome. PA journalists from across Europe contributed to this report.
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