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COVID-19 VACCINES

France recommends Covid-19 vaccine for ‘high-risk’ children from age 5

Health authorities in France have recommended that children aged five to 11 who have a ‘higher risk of developing a serious form’ of Covid-19 should be vaccinated.

A child, aged 11, receiving a Covid-19 vaccine
Photo: Andrej Ivanov / AFP

Vaccination is also recommended for children who live with or are otherwise close to people who, for health reasons of their own, cannot be vaccinated.

At least 360,000 children, according to official figures, with a range of chronic illnesses – including heart disease, heart defects, serious lung disease, cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, or severe forms of asthma would be eligible, the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) has said.

In France the HAS is advisory and it is up to the government to set policy, but it is rare for the government to go against HAS advice.

On the subject of vaccines for all 5-11 year-olds, health minister Olivier Véran said in his speech last week that a consultation was ongoing. He said that a decision would be made on this in the New Year.

READ ALSO Reader question: Do I need a vaccine booster if I’ve already had Covid?

“Doctors may also offer this vaccination to children who have rare pathologies that are not on the list but for which there is also a risk,” Daniel Floret, vice-president of the HAS’s technical commission for vaccinations told Franceinfo.

“It is also recommended for children close to immunocompromised people because they have very limited protection, who respond poorly to vaccines, so vaccinating those around them is one way to protect them.”

A smaller dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, three times lower than the dose for adults, is available for children who fall into the vulnerable category.

The recommendation comes a week after the European Medicines Agency recommended a 10 microgram dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for all children aged between five and 11 years old.

READ ALSO France sets 7 month limit on Covid health pass and opens up booster jabs to all

The HAS has yet to publish its advice on this subject.

“It is well known that children usually have mild forms of the disease so the individual benefit of vaccination is not as obvious as in adults or in children who have risk factors,” Floret said, explaining that the HAS was waiting for further data from the US.

“We will soon have the data of the American experience since Americans will have vaccinated several million children, so if there are particular tolerance problems, it will appear in clinical trials,” he said.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Are people who’ve had the single J&J jab no longer fully vaccinated in Germany?

Germany's federal vaccine agency says that people who've had one dose of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine should no longer be classed as being fully vaccinated.

People queue for a vaccination in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt.
People queue for a vaccination in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

People who’ve had J&J, sometimes known as Janssen, used to have full vaccination status after a single dose of the vaccine. 

Since January 15th, however, a single dose of J&J should no longer count as full vaccination, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), the country’s vaccine authority. 

In autumn last year the German government began recommending a second mRNA jab for people who’d had J&J – which many people thought was the booster vaccination. 

However, according to the PEI’s update on proof of vaccination within the Covid Protective Measures Exemption Ordinance and the Coronavirus Entry Ordinance, the second shot is needed to complete ‘basic immunisation’.

It is unclear at this stage if it means that people returning or coming to Germany from abroad with only one shot of J&J will be counted as partially vaccinated and therefore need to present tests or face other forms of barriers to entry. 

We are also looking into what this means for the various health pass rules in states, such as the 3G rules for transport. 

The Deutsches Ärzteblatt, a German-language medical magazine, said: “Special rules according to which one dose was recognised as a complete vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are no longer applicable.”

The Local has contacted the German Health Ministry for clarification on what this means for those affected. 

According to the latest government figures, 5.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson have been given out in Germany so far in the vaccination campaign. 

The news will come as a shock to those who don’t know that they need another jab, or haven’t got round to getting their second vaccine yet. 

All other jabs – such as BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca – already require two jabs. 

People in Germany are seen as fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose. 

What about boosters?

As The Local Germany has been reporting, the German government said in December that people who’ve had J&J need a third shot three months after their second dose to be considered boosted.

A German Health Ministry spokesman told us last week that due to more vaccination breakthrough infections affecting people who’ve had the J&J vaccine, extra protection was needed.

“Therefore, after completion of the basic immunisation as recommended by STIKO, i.e. after administration of two vaccine doses (preferably 1x J&J + 1x mRNA), following the current recommendation of the STIKO, a further booster vaccination can subsequently be administered with a minimum interval of a further three months, as with the other approved Covid-19 vaccines,” the Health Ministry spokesman said. 

However, there has been much confusion on this front because some states have been accepting J&J and another shot as being boosted, while others haven’t.

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It is unclear if the new regulation will mean that states will all have to only accept J&J and two shots as being boosted. 

North Rhine-Westphalia, for instance, updated its regulations on January 16th and now requires that people who’ve had J&J and one shot have another jab to be boosted. 

Having a booster shot in Germany means that you do not have to take a Covid-19 test if you’re entering a venue, such as a restaurant or cafe, under the 2G-plus rules.

The Paul Ehrlich Institute said that proof of complete vaccination protection against Covid takes into account “the current state of medical science”. 

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