fThe Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko) no longer wants to recommend a corona vaccination for healthy children and adolescents in Germany. This was announced by Stiko member Martin Terhardt in a video link to a draft decision by the expert panel. The Robert Koch Institute published on Tuesday on his website a related press release.
The committee justifies the step in a communication with the “rarity of severe courses” in minors without previous illnesses. For healthy five to eleven year olds, the previous Stiko recommendation provided for a corona vaccine dose, for twelve to 17 year olds a basic immunization plus a booster vaccination. Among the omicron variants, the severity of the disease, including potential long-term consequences, has developed into predominantly mild or asymptomatic courses in this age group.
“The evidence available to date shows that SARS-CoV-2 infections in children and adolescents usually run their course without any problems. The Stiko therefore no longer recommends vaccination in this age group. However, there are no safety concerns when vaccinating healthy children and adolescents.
What are the rules and recommendations for corona vaccination? Here is an overview:
Who is in the risk groups and what applies to them?
For people over 60, residents of care facilities and people with certain previous illnesses from the age of six months, the Stiko in the planned recommendation provides for annual booster vaccinations, preferably before possible waves in autumn and winter. A vaccine adapted to variants is to be used. At least twelve months should usually have passed since the last vaccination or infection. The aim is to prevent severe disease progression. According to Stiko, people who work in medicine and care should also be boosted. In the future, a longer protection period could turn out, so that it doesn’t necessarily have to stay with the annual booster, explained Stiko member Christian Bogdan.
What about healthy children and adolescents?
For minors, the Stiko no longer advocates routine corona vaccinations in view of the “usually” problem-free course. The previous recommendation recommended a corona vaccine dose for healthy five to eleven year olds and basic immunization plus a booster vaccination for twelve to 17 year olds. Potential long-term consequences of the infection (Long Covid) are also not an argument for the experts, since the risk has now fallen even further and has not completely disappeared even with the vaccination. “However, there are no safety concerns when vaccinating healthy children and adolescents,” emphasizes Stiko. This addition is important, said the immunologist Carsten Watzl: Some doctors wrongly interpreted the lack of vaccination recommendations as meaning that vaccination should not be carried out.
What applies to healthy adults under 60?
Anyone in this group who has either been vaccinated twice against Sars-CoV-2 and boosted or infected has built up basic immunity from Stiko’s point of view and does not have to plan any further boosters for the time being. Harmless respiratory infections – which usually occur in the group – cannot be prevented by vaccination, Stiko member Christian Bogdan made clear.
How do other professionals rate the Stiko plans?
The clarity certainly helps the doctors, said Watzl, Secretary General of the German Society for Immunology, who is not a member of the Stiko. Plans for booster vaccinations for the fall are now also possible – on the premise that omicron or a similar virus variant will then prevail. “It’s also easy to convey to people: We are now making recommendations that are very similar to those of the flu vaccination,” said Watzl.
Can I get vaccinated without a Stiko recommendation?
Yes, in principle this is possible. After the end of the crisis rules that have been in force for a long time, corona vaccinations are not yet available in all federal states directly at cash register costs. According to the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, in countries where remuneration is not yet regulated, patients initially receive a private invoice and can then submit it to the statutory health insurance fund for reimbursement.
The framework for entitlement to free vaccinations is now a guideline based on the Stiko recommendations. According to a federal ordinance, vaccinations are still possible at health insurance costs if a doctor deems it medically necessary.
What is the reason for the new Stiko recommendation?
With the planned innovations, Stiko is including the Covid-19 vaccination in its general vaccination recommendations for 2023. So far, the committee had treated Covid-19 separately and made more than 20 updates, for example when new vaccines or findings were added. The current step can be seen as a kind of transition from pandemic to normal mode. The finished paper is expected in about two weeks. First of all, the federal states and specialist groups should be able to give feedback.
What role does the discussion about vaccination damage play in the recommendation?
No crucial role. The Stiko refers above all to the favorable development of basic immunity in the population and the virus variants. The corona vaccines can be described as very safe, said Stiko member Bogdan. Misguided or undesired immune reactions are in the large minority and must be put in relation to the number of people who benefited from the vaccination. The Stiko was not approached “side effect controlled”.
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