FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The German state of Saxony, among the hardest hit by surging COVID-19 infections, will start vaccinating at-risk children under 12 years of age from Wednesday, even though the approved paediatric shot will not be available before next week.
The early launch follows a recommendation by Saxony’s vaccination commission on Dec. 1 to give one third of the 30 microgram dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine for adults to children at risk of severe COVID-19 or children in contact with people with chronic conditions.
The Helios Herzzentrum hospital confirmed the vaccination campaign, first reported by daily Saechsische Zeitung.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Nov. 25 cleared for use in younger children a dedicated 10 microgram vaccine version that will be bottled by the manufacturers and delivered in Europe from Dec. 13.
Other European countries have forged ahead. In hard-hit Austria some provinces have been vaccinating five to 11-year-old children with a lower dose of the adult vaccine even before the EU recommendation. Denmark followed suit with that method in late November, saying there was no time to lose amid rising infections among the youngest.
Germany is among the hardest hit by the current wave of infections in Western Europe. Within Germany, Saxony is one of the worst hit by cases and COVID-19 patients needing intensive care and also the regional state with the overall lowest vaccination rate.
BioNTech said it does not comment on off-label use, or application by physicians outside the approved circumstances of use.
Saxony’s health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Patricia Weiss and Ludwig Burger; Additional reporting by Deena Beasley in Chicago)