Britain, Germany to begin giving 3rd doses of coronavirus vaccine

UK reportedly set to administer booster shots to those over aged 50 or immunocompromised from September; German authorities to offer the inoculation to vulnerable groups

Care home resident Gwen Nurse, aged 86 receives her first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in south west London, Jan. 13, 2021  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Care home resident Gwen Nurse, aged 86 receives her first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in south west London, Jan. 13, 2021 (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Britain and Germany will both begin offering third coronavirus vaccine shots to at-risk members of the population, with campaigns to administer the injections beginning next month.

Israel began offering a third booster shot to all those over the age of 60 at the end of last week, with the drive fully kicking off on Sunday.

The UK will provide the booster shots to tens of millions of people from September, The Telegraph newspaper reported on Sunday.

Some 32 million people would be eligible, including all those over the age of 50 and those who are immunocompromised. Shots will also be given to National Health Service workers and care home staff.

The boosters will be administered from September 6, according to the report.

Inoculations will be given at over 2,000 pharmacies across the country with a target of 2.5 million doses administered every week. The government hopes to have delivered the third shot to all the relevant population by Christmas, according to the report.

Sources told the newspaper that a plan to give COVID-19 shots alongside regular flu vaccinations, with one shot going in each arm, is also under consideration.

The UK’s Department of Health already announced in June that it planned to offer booster shots from September to those over 70 and at risk from health issues, after being advised to do so by the country’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

In Germany, state health ministers decided Monday to start offering booster shots for especially vulnerable groups in September.

They also said all people who got vaccinated with the AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson shots could get a refresher shot with an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna from September onwards.

People receive the AstraZeneca vaccination against the coronavirus at the forum of the DITIB central mosque in Cologne, Germany, May 8, 2021. (Martin Meissner/AP)

In addition, Germany will start offering coronavirus vaccinations for all children and teenagers aged 12 and older, top health officials said.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said after a meeting with the 16 German state health ministers that “we keep our promise: everybody who wants can get vaccinated in the summer — we have enough vaccines for all age groups.”

“Therefore, children and teenagers … can decide to get vaccinated after a medical consultation and thus protect themselves and others,” he added.

The government’s push to get Germany’s youth vaccinated comes two months after the European Medicines Agency recommended that the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer-BioNTech be expanded to children 12 to 15. Last week, the EU drug regulator also cleared the vaccine made by Moderna for the same age group.

So far, however, the country’s standing committee on vaccination, the Stiko, has been reluctant to give the go-ahead for all youngsters and only explicitly recommended the vaccination for the age group between 12 and 16 if they suffer from certain chronic illnesses. The committee says that not enough study results are yet available on possible long-term effects of the vaccine on the younger ones, but has also said it may update its recommendation as more data becomes available.

But as schools across the country are starting to open again after the summer vacations, and given the vulnerability of young unvaccinated people to the quickly spreading delta variant, pressure has been mounting to get more children 12 and older vaccinated. Politicians have been lobbying to get the younger ones immunized against COVID-19 quickly to prevent renewed school closures in the fall.

Therefore, the 16 state top health officials on Monday decided that healthy children and teenagers should now also be able get the jab at vaccination centers or their pediatricians’ practices. As for all age groups, the vaccinations remain voluntary.

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn attends a press conference on the National Reserve Health Protection in Berlin, Germany, July 21, 2021. (Axel Schmidt/AP)

So far, 20% of those between 12 and 17 have received at least one shot in Germany and nearly 10% are fully vaccinated.

The country’s family minister said the decision “is an important step so that children and teenagers can be protected from a coronavirus infection in the best possible way.”

“Many parents have been insecure about whether they should vaccinate their children because so far there was no clear recommendation,” Christine Lambrecht added. “The decision for a broad vaccination offer for those aged between 12 to 17 can now help them.”

There are large disparities in the access to vaccination for youths across Europe. While countries like Estonia, Denmark and France are actively encouraging families to vaccinate their children before the new school year begins, others such as Sweden and the United Kingdom have yet to begin mass vaccinations for those under 18.

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