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COVID-19

EU approves use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children 12 and over in Europe

The European Commission authorised the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds on Friday, following the European Medicines Agency's approval of administering the jabs to adolescents earlier in the day.

EU approves use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children 12 and over in Europe
A nurse prepares a syringe with saline solution before it is diluted with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at the Evonik vaccination in Hanau, western Germany (Photo by THOMAS LOHNES / AFP)

This vaccine is already approved for people aged 16 and over in the EU.

Earlier this month, US regulators authorised the vaccine for children in the 12-to-15 age group, and it is now widely available.

The European Medicines Agency said that two doses of the vaccine would be needed in adolescents and should be given at least three weeks apart, which is the same guidance as for adult use.

Individual EU states would be able to decide whether or not they wanted to offer the vaccine to the 12 to 15-year-olds.

READ ALSO: Vaccines to be made available to children 12 and over in Germany starting June

Germany said on Thursday that it would start giving the vaccine to children from 12 to 15 from June 7th, which is when vaccine prioritisation for all adults is set to end in Germany.

READ ALSO: Covid jabs for children in Germany will be an ‘individual decision’, says Health Minister

Italy has also said it would extend its vaccination campaign to the over-12s, with approval from Italy’s regulator expected by Monday.

READ ALSO: Italy to open Covid jab appointments to all over-16s from June 3rd

And Austrian capital Vienna was waiting for the EMA approval before opening up Covid-19 vaccination registrations to parents of 12- to 15-year-olds.

In Switzerland, meanwhile, children may be able to get vaccinated at the age of 10, even without their parents’ approval.

The EMA approval may help reassure parents when children go back to face-to-face teaching, but the issue is not without controversy.

A few figures in the medical community have said there is not yet enough evidence to support vaccines and their potential side effects in younger people, while others believe older and vulnerable people in less wealthy countries should be prioritised over children.

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COVID-19

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

After several months of a relatively low number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland, the rate of infections rose by over 22 percent in a span of seven days this week. What measures are Swiss health officials planning to prevent a new wave?

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

The Swiss government has said that “further waves of infections are to be expected in the fall/winter of 2022/2023″.

As in previous waves, “the main objective of managing the pandemic is to prevent an overload of the health system. It is currently difficult to predict the magnitude of the waves of infection and, therefore, the burden on the healthcare system”, it added.

According to current estimates, “it can be assumed that ordinary structures will be sufficient to manage the situation”.

However, unless new, deadly variants emerge in the near future, health officials  expect the new wave to be milder than the ones  that struck in the winter of 2020 and 2021.

There are several reasons for this optimism:

Higher immunity

Due to vaccinations and infections, “it is estimated that 97 percent of the Swiss population has been in contact with the virus”, which means that “immunity within the population is currently high”, authorities said.

Lighter course

This means that unlike the early Covid strains like Alpha and Delta, which were highly virulent, the latest dominant mutation — Omicron and its subvariants — while highly contagious, are also less dangerous for most people.

New vaccines

The new version of the Moderna vaccine, which should better target certain sub-variants of Omicron, will be rolled in Switzerland from October 10th.

Compared to the original vaccine, which was effective mostly against early strains and offered no protection against Omicron, “the new vaccine produces a stronger immune response against the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.4/5″, according to the drug regulatory body, Swissmedic.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Switzerland approves new Covid-19 boosters

Is the government planning any specific measures this winter?

While the severity of the new wave is not yet known, authorities have made several ‘just-in-case’ provisions by, for instance, extending the Covid-19 law until June 2024.

This legislation, which was approved in a referendum in November 2021, allows the Federal Council to maintain and apply emergency measures that are necessary to manage the pandemic. Without the extension, ithe law would lapse in December of this year.

READ MORE: Covid-19 law: How Switzerland reacted to the referendum results

“No one wants to reactivate the Covid law. But after two years of the pandemic, we have understood that we must be ready”, said MP Mattea Meyer.

While no mask mandates or other restrictions are being discussed at this time, the re-activated legislation would allow the authorities to quickly introduce any measures they deem necessary, according to the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

More preparations from the cantons

As it would be up to the cantons to apply measures set by the federal government, some have asked that financing be made available in case regional hospitals have to again accommodate patients from other cantons.

They are also making sure enough intensive care beds are ready for Covid patients.

What about the Covid certificate and tracing?

Though it is no longer used in Switzerland, the certificate continues to be required abroad.

The government will ensure its international compatibility.

The legal basis for the SwissCovid tracking app will also remain in force and can be reactivated during the winter of 2023/2024, if necessary.

MPs are also debating possible rules to be enforced for cross-border workers in the event of border closures.

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