Merkel and German state heads agree children above 12 can receive jab

By Basil Wegener and Ulrich Steinkohl, dpa

Children in Germany above the age of 12 can be vaccinated against coronavirus from June 7, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of the 16 German states agreed on Thursday.

The decision is dependent on the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approving the BioNTech/Pfizer jab for this age group, with a ruling expected on Friday.

So far the jab has only been allowed for over 16s.

Merkel reaffirmed the goal “that every citizen will be offered a vaccination by the end of the summer,” which should now include 12- to 16-year-olds. But she said it would take time to implement the policy.

She promised that children with pre-existing conditions would be vaccinated as a priority – if a special commission on the issue advises so.

Many in Germany believe vaccinating children with jabs whose long-term effects are not yet clear is a step too far when the young are generally least affected by Covid-19.

Merkel understands these worries and added: “Vaccinating children is a very sensitive act.”

Given kindergarten and elementary school children cannot be vaccinated at present, there will be no change to general school policy with regards to the coronavirus.

“Safe schooling will continue to be completely independent of whether a child is vaccinated or not,” she said.

There would also be no impact on people wanting to go on holiday and whose children are not vaccinated. The current testing rules for travel would still apply, Merkel said.

Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder made clear in his remarks after the meeting that nothing was obligatory.

“We want to make an offer of vaccinations, but there is no compulsion,” he said.

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, who strongly advocated the move to vaccinate over-12s, said: “In the end, it is a well-balanced decision by children, parents, doctors.”

The meeting also discussed worries about vaccine supply generally in Germany.

Hamburg Mayor Peter Tschentscher, whose city is also a state, said he had been given assurances that the distribution system would be rebalanced after Hamburg received fewer doses than it should.

Appointments for first doses in Hamburg were getting too scarce, he added.

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