Appeals to open schools and vaccination

Instead of “off label” vaccinations, ie without official approval, children from the age of five will soon be able to be vaccinated with the vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer. Austria has already ordered the maximum amount currently available, and a first tranche of 258,000 cans will arrive in Austria towards the end of the year, said Mückstein on Thursday. These contain the same vaccine, but would be specially packaged. Around 600,000 children would now be eligible for the CoV vaccination. Until delivery, the recommendation that children receive a third of an adult dose will continue to be followed.

There will be special children’s vaccination routes, Mückstein continued. Information material will also be published. Child vaccinations can be started “promptly” throughout Austria. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has passed a particularly thorough approval process, the vaccination for children is safe.

Difficult course possible

The head of the NIG, Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt, agreed in ZIB2 on Thursday. The panel recommends vaccination for all children aged five and over. Particular attention is paid to those children who themselves have high-risk diseases such as tumors, immunosuppression, lung or heart diseases and trisomy 21. Vaccination is also important for children from families in which members are health impaired, said Wiedermann-Schmidt.

Experts on children in the pandemic

Educational psychologist Christiane Spiel speaks about the effects of the lockdown on children and adolescents. Vaccine specialist Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt explains how vaccination approval for children can change the situation.

For all children, however, the following applies: In principle, a severe course of the disease is possible for every child and one does not know which child will be affected. The particularly aggressive Delta variant has shown that the number of infections is also increasing in children, and so the risk of severe disease increases in them.

Concern about “Long Covid”

In the USA and Israel, data from over three million vaccinated children have already shown that there are no serious or new side effects, at most mild reactions such as fever, pain at the injection site, tiredness or headache. For children who have recovered, Wiedermann-Schmidt recommended vaccination after a waiting period of at least one month.

Mückstein was relieved on Thursday about the EMA approval: “It still exists, the good news.” He warned not only of severe disease in children, but also of the danger of “Long Covid”. He called on all parents to find out more from the pediatricians and to “protect children against this insidious virus”.

Compulsory vaccination for children still unclear

So far, the vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer was approved in Europe from the age of twelve, but vaccination was still carried out, but without official approval. The final decision has yet to be made by the European Commission. But that is a matter of form. A second vaccine for children could follow soon. The EMA experts are currently examining an application from the US manufacturer Moderna.

Green light for child vaccination

The European Medicines Agency and the National Vaccination Board recommend Biontech and Pfizer’s vaccine for children aged five and over. Children receive a third of an adult dose, and 258,000 vaccines are to be delivered by the end of the year.

Even when asked several times, Mückstein did not answer whether the vaccination for children also falls under the planned mandatory vaccination from February. That has to be discussed broadly with experts. For the FPÖ, vaccination for children represented a new “taboo break”. FPÖ boss Herbert Kickl asked Mückstein in a broadcast to clarify whether the vaccination obligation also applies to children. The deputy NEOS club chairman Gerald Loacker demanded that Austria quickly develop and implement a comprehensive and low-threshold advisory service.

Agreement on open schools

The child vaccination was also welcomed on Thursday by the local traffic light commission. According to the commission, closing the education sector should be “the last resort”. This was also the view of the regional education officers on Thursday. At a meeting with ÖVP Education Minister Heinz Faßmann, the participants made a commitment to open schools.

“Schoolchildren showed solidarity during the pandemic. You have had to go without a lot in the past 20 months. At this stage of the pandemic, they have a right to as much normalcy and support as possible. I am glad that we are in agreement on this, ”said Faßmann via broadcast.

In an interview with the APA, Tyrol’s regional education councilor Beate Palfrader (ÖVP) also took a position on the subject. “We are sticking to the fact that distance learning across the board is not an option.” Previously, Palfrader had argued that regular testing in schools would provide a means of monitoring what happened to the infection. She also hoped that the newly introduced regulation, according to which the whole class had to go into distance learning for five days from the second case of infection, will take effect.

School operation despite lockdowns

Despite lockdowns, schools in Austria remain open. Parents can choose whether or not to send their children to school. The Ministry of Education relies on broad tests in schools to ensure safe operation.

But she could not predict whether one would survive the winter without school closings. Palfrader’s colleagues from Lower Austria and Salzburg, Christiane Teschl-Hofmeister and Daniela Gutschi (both ÖVP), also spoke out against closing the schools at this point in time. Closing the school again endangers the mental health of the children and adolescents.

Focus on mental health

The ÖGKJP presidium and its president Kathrin Sevecke also took a vehement position against school closings. Studies have “clearly shown that the pandemic has a significant impact on the mental health of young people,” the experts underlined in a broadcast. According to the ÖGKJP, one should “have learned from previous mistakes”. According to experts, closing the school again would “certainly further endanger the mental health of children and adolescents”. In addition, there is a risk that emotionally stressed young people who are not yet clinically at risk will now develop symptoms of a mental illness.

Also in ZIB2, the educational psychologist Christiane Spiel said that the course of the pandemic had brought about major differences among the students. One group gets along better. Others, on the other hand, have no help at home, have language problems or cramped living space. They often “dropped out of learning”. Bringing them back also poses an economic challenge. One cannot afford “that we lose these children,” said Spiel.

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