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A girl receives a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Paris, France. Vaccination against Covid-19 will be proposed to children aged 5 to 11 years from December 22 “if all goes well”, said French Minister of Health Olivier Veran. Photo: AFP

Portugal, France to vaccinate younger children in fight against Omicron variant

  • Portugal began jabbing over-fives on Saturday, while France plans to begin rolling out injections for the same age group on Wednesday, following other nations already inoculating many youngsters
  • But EU health agency says vaccines alone take too long; measures like mask-wearing, distance working, preventing crowds essential to reduce burden on health care systems in time available

Portugal, one of the countries with the highest Covid-19 vaccination rates worldwide, began inoculating over-fives on Saturday, and France said it was ready to roll out jabs for them from next week.

Europe is currently battling to rein in the spread of the highly mutated Omicron variant of the coronavirus, believed to be much more infectious, and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has warned the new strain could be dominant in Europe by mid-January.
A number of countries have already opened up their immunisation drives to younger children, even though the EU’s health agency has warned that jabs alone will not be sufficient to stop the variant’s rise.
A ‘tiger’ at a vaccination site in Portugal, where children aged five to 11 are now being vaccinated. Photo: EPA-EFE
In Portugal, where 88.9 per cent of the population is vaccinated, more than 60,000 children aged between five and 11 were set to receive their first jab of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine this weekend.

And in France, health minister Olivier Veran said jabs will start to be administered to children in the same age group from Wednesday.


U.K. breaks daily Covid-19 record as Omicron likely to become dominant strain in E.U. by mid-January

U.K. breaks daily Covid-19 record as Omicron likely to become dominant strain in E.U. by mid-January

“If all goes well, we will start vaccination of children on the afternoon of December 22 in specially adapted centres,” he said.

But even as children line up to get jabs, the EU health agency ECDC has said measures like mask-wearing, distance working and the prevention of crowds were essential to reduce the burden on health care systems in the time available, with vaccines alone taking too long.

Children at a vaccination centre in Portugal. Photo: EPA-EFE

The EU’s medicines watchdog last month approved the lower-dosage Pfizer shot for five to 11-year-olds, an age group experiencing high coronavirus infection rates across the continent.

Denmark, which has seen a surge in cases attributed to the new Omicron variant, and some Austrian regions began offering jabs to younger children in November.

The United States was the first large country to take the plunge and has so far vaccinated more than five million children in the five-to-11 age bracket.

Omicron evades protection from 2 doses of Sinopharm vaccine: study

Meanwhile, about a third of people in Germany will attempt to avoid unvaccinated people during the holidays, a survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of German news agency dpa has shown.

Some 35 per cent of the more than 2,000 respondents said they wanted to avoid meetings with unvaccinated people in the coming weeks.

Almost a quarter said they would take special precautions at meetings with unvaccinated people. Fifteen per cent said they would pay special attention to distance and hygiene rules, and another 9 per cent said they would ask for a coronavirus rapid test before agreeing to meet.

Panic in Britain as Omicron crisis bites ahead of Christmas

For 9 per cent of respondents, lack of vaccinations does play a role in deciding whom to spend time with over Christmas. For as many as 29 per cent, on the other hand, the lack of immunisation was irrelevant.

Germany is in the throes of a fourth wave of coronavirus infections.