Germany plans to start offering Covid-19 reminders to elderly and at-risk people from September 1, according to a draft document viewed by AFP on Sunday, as concerns grow over the spread of the Delta variant .
The plan also recommends promoting vaccination for 12-17 year olds, which would go further than previous guidelines issued by the country’s vaccine regulatory body.
Health Minister Jens Spahn and Germany’s 16 regional health ministers are expected to finalize the plans, drawn up by ministry officials, at a meeting on Monday.
Mobile vaccination teams will be dispatched to nursing homes to offer Pfizer / BioNTech or Moderna reminders to residents, regardless of the vaccine they originally had, the document said.
Doctors will also be able to administer the booster vaccine to eligible people, such as the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
The text justifies the initiative by citing recent studies showing that protection against infection wanes over time, again putting vulnerable people at risk.
Although Germany currently has relatively low infection rates compared to neighboring countries, the number of cases has increased in recent weeks mainly due to the more contagious Delta variant.
There are also concerns about a slowdown in the country’s vaccination rate, with just over 52% of the population fully vaccinated.
– ‘Safe return’ to school –
In order to get more young people vaccinated, the health ministers want to expand access by opening all vaccination centers in the country to 12-17 year olds.
Schools and universities should also offer the jabs, says the draft resolution.
Germany’s STIKO Vaccine Commission disappointed many in June when it officially recommended the vaccine only to 12-17 year olds if they had pre-existing conditions or lived with people at high risk of Covid.
Although adolescents who do not fit into these categories are still allowed to be vaccinated, in consultation with their parents and doctors, STIKO’s cautious advice has slowed their uptake.
Within the European Union, the European Medicines Agency has approved Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna injections for all over 12s.
Health Minister Spahn tweeted on Saturday that so far one in five Germans aged 12 to 17 had received their first coronavirus vaccine.
“There are enough vaccines for all age groups: anyone who wants can get the vaccine,” he wrote.
If Spahn and his regional peers approve of the draft, their decision to encourage all teens to roll up their sleeves would essentially see them bypass STIKO, which said it needed more data before issuing a more general recommendation.
According to the project, having children and adolescents vaccinated could “significantly contribute to a safe return to classrooms after the summer holidays”.
German health institute Robert Koch reported 2,097 daily new cases of coronavirus and one death on Sunday.
Since the start of the pandemic, Germany has recorded more than 3.7 million cases and 91,659 deaths.
© 2021 AFP