Corona vaccinations for children: waiting for the STIKO recommendation

Status: 04.12.2021 8:04 p.m.

Vaccinations of five to eleven year olds against Covid-19 could start soon. BioNTech / Pfizer’s vaccine is scheduled for delivery to the EU from December 13th. Pediatricians prepare.

“The challenge is enormous,” says pediatrician Thomas Koffler from Mainz. As soon as the vaccine is available, his practice should start with the corona vaccinations for children from the age of five. One of the employees is already taking care of the organization of the upcoming vaccinations; takes calls, puts children’s names on the waiting list, makes schedules.

Vaccination during lunch break and on weekends

“We have been vaccinating children from the age of twelve against Covid for a long time,” says Koffler, “we do that during the lunch break.” On this Friday alone, 30 child vaccinations are on the program for the practice break. There is no other way, because his practice, like that of many colleagues this winter, is “extremely full”. In the past year, many infections did not materialize due to the corona measures, now they are coming back together, the pediatrician describes the situation.

If the younger children were to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, his practice team would also have to be on duty at the weekend. “We can still motivate our employees to sacrifice their free time, but at some point they will be exhausted by the amount of current work.” Koffler does not yet know exactly when the vaccinations for five to eleven year olds will start.

“Don’t know when the vaccine will come”

His colleague Christian Neumann, a pediatrician in Zweibrücken in Rhineland-Palatinate and spokesman for the regional association of paediatricians, is feeling similar. He is prepared for the child vaccinations and has already had a few questions from parents. He has been vaccinating children from the age of twelve for a long time, also during their lunch break.

But how and when the vaccine for the younger children will come to him, Neumann does not know – and is annoyed: “I have no idea how it should work. We people on site have once again not been informed.”

In addition, Neumann does not want to start vaccinating before the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) has given its recommendation. Neumann criticizes the fact that politicians are already promoting child vaccinations: “It is absolutely incomprehensible that they have trumpeted the registration deadline without having the STIKO checked in peace.” The STIKO is a commission that doctors and parents place a lot of trust in. So he wants to wait, says Neumann.

Pediatrician Neumann wants to wait for the STIKO’s recommendation.

Bild: Lucretia Gather SWR

Vaccine announced for mid-December

Last week, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) classified the BioNTech vaccine as safe and effective for children from the age of five and gave the green light for approval in this age group as well. The Mainz-based company BioNTech and the US group Pfizer have announced that they will start delivering the children’s vaccine across the EU from December 13th.

Officially, children of this age group can already be vaccinated if the doctor deems it medically necessary. Doctors can administer a dose that corresponds to a third of the dose for adults, explains Jakob Maske, federal press spokesman for the professional association of paediatricians

Federal association: wait for the STIKO recommendation

In principle, however, the Federal Association also advocates waiting for the recommendation of the Standing Vaccination Commission. Jakob Maske, himself a pediatrician in Berlin, says: “Healthy children under the age of twelve rarely get seriously ill with Covid-19 and only very rarely have to be treated in hospital. So there is absolutely no need to rush to vaccinate children.”

He is not sure whether the STIKO will recommend vaccination for children at all. It is also possible that the committee will initially only make a recommendation for children with previous illnesses, such as children with heart and lung diseases or diabetes. “As an association, we only endorse nationwide vaccinations for the age group five and over if the STIKO gives the green light,” said Maske.

Federal association: Only paediatricians should vaccinate children

Should there then be a rush for child vaccinations, the Federal Association of Pediatricians also sees major challenges for the practices, because they are extremely stressed this winter.

Nevertheless, the pediatrician is the only place for child vaccinations, says Maske. He is responding to the proposal of the health ministers of the federal states to include dentists and pharmacists in the vaccination campaign. “This cannot apply to children,” says Maske, “because if a rare side effect does occur during follow-up, then only the pediatrician can react properly.”

Vaccinating children takes more time

One aspect that the Mainz pediatrician Koffler draws attention to: He is prepared for the fact that vaccinating children from the age of five will take a long time. “Smaller children can’t just hold out their arm and that’s it,” says Koffler, “because they always need assistance and twice as much time as adults or adolescents.”

In addition, the pediatrician describes the pediatrician: “Vaccinating many children quickly at the same time is not possible in a practice.”