Protection against the coronavirus: when are vaccines available for children?



Status: 25.03.2021 2:44 p.m.

With schools open, calls for suitable vaccines for children are getting louder. But none have been approved for them yet. How far is the research?

From Anja Martini,

What role do children play in the pandemic?

Minors make up a significant proportion of the population: According to information from the Federal Statistical Office, 13.7 million children and young people up to the age of 18 currently live in Germany. That is about 16.5 percent of the total population. Studies show that although they contract Covid-19 less often, they can still spread the coronavirus.

The head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Lothar Wieler, is particularly worried about children under the age of 15. In this age group, the nationwide incidence value has doubled nationwide in the past four weeks, according to the RKI. It is now around 83. For a few weeks, more tests have been carried out in daycare centers and schools – rapid tests and self-tests are gradually becoming available. That could be a reason why more children are being discovered with an infection. However, Wieler says that the sharp increase cannot be explained by more tests alone, and cites virus mutations such as the British variant as a possible cause.

More and more professional associations are therefore calling for children and young people to be vaccinated. This is a way out of the pandemic, because children have a particularly high number of contacts. Critics, however, want to first check the existing corona vaccines further and only then include children in the vaccination strategy.

Are vaccines already approved for children?

Only the mRNA vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer has so far been approved for adolescents aged 16 and over. All other corona vaccines are only approved from the age of 18. Before clinical studies in children can start, it must be ensured that adults do not experience any serious problems after vaccination.

How advanced are the studies by vaccine manufacturers?

BioNTech and Pfizer are testing the effectiveness and safety of their corona vaccine on 2,200 subjects between the ages of twelve and 16. A study with children between the ages of five and eleven is also planned. The companies want to submit the first data to the US regulatory authorities by next June.

The US manufacturer Moderna entered clinical studies in March. On the one hand 6,750 healthy children between the ages of six months and eleven years and in another study 3,000 voluntary children and adolescents between twelve and 17 years of age are tested. Moderna also wants to present the first results by the summer.

The British-Swedish company AstraZeneca and Oxford University are also expecting results by the summer. They have been testing their corona vaccine on 300 volunteers aged six to 17 since February.

The fourth corona vaccine approved in the EU from the US manufacturer Johnson & Johnson is already being tested in studies for its effectiveness and safety in children. Participants aged twelve and over have been tested since August. No results are available yet.

When could a vaccine be ready for use?

In view of the ongoing studies, the chairman of the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO), Thomas Mertens, is confident that there will be a corona vaccine for children at the end of the year. Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn (CDU) is even betting that a vaccine will be available as early as the summer.

Are children in other countries already vaccinated?

Israel considers the corona vaccines used so far to be safe and is already vaccinating 16- and 17-year-olds. Israel is currently one of the countries with the highest percentage of vaccinated citizens.

Britain plans to start vaccinating children in August, reports The Telegraph. If this happens at the current rate of around three million first vaccine doses per week, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, most of the eleven million school-age children could be vaccinated before returning to school after the summer vacation.

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