Could 12 to 15-year-olds in the EU soon be given the Pfizer Covid vaccine?

Pfizer/BioNTech said on Friday it has asked European regulators to authorise its Covid-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds, a move seen as a crucial step toward achieving herd immunity.

Could 12 to 15-year-olds in the EU soon be given the Pfizer Covid vaccine?
A pupil at a school in the German state of Hesse in April. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

The company has already filed a similar request with US authorities earlier this month. Its vaccine is currently only approved for use in people aged 16 and over.

In a joint statement, Pfizer and BioNTech said they had submitted a request with the Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency (EMA) to expand the use of their jab to include “adolescents 12 to 15 years of age”.

Ugur Sahin, co-founder and CEO of Germany’s BioNTech firm, on Thursday said the jab could be available for those age groups from June if EU approval is granted.

READ MORE: Germany’s BioNTech hopes for 12-to-15 year olds to receive vaccine in June

The move comes after phase 3 trial data showed that the vaccine provided “robust antibody responses” and was 100 percent effective in warding off the disease among those aged 12 to 15.

“The vaccine also was generally well tolerated,” the statement added.

In an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel weekly, Sahin said he expected regulators’ evaluation of the data to take four to six weeks.

If approved, the green light would apply to all 27 European Union member states.

Pfizer and BioNTech added that they also plan to seek authorisations “with other regulatory authorities worldwide”.

No coronavirus vaccines are currently authorised for use on children.

While children and teenagers are less likely to develop severe Covid, they make up a large part of the population and inoculating them is considered key to ending the pandemic.

The prospect of getting older children jabbed before the next school year begins would also ease the strain on parents who are juggling the demands of homeschooling while keeping up with jobs.

“It’s very important to enable children a return to their normal school lives and allow them to meet with family and friends,” Sahin told Spiegel.

Plan for vaccination of younger children

BioNTech and Pfizer are also racing to get their jab approved for younger kids, from six months upwards.

“In July, the first results for five- to 12-year-olds could be available, and those for younger children in September,” Sahin said.

Ongoing trials so far are “very encouraging”, Sahin said, suggesting that “children are very well protected by the vaccine”.

BioNTech was founded in Mainz by husband and wife team Ugur Sahin and his wife Özlem Türeci. They teamed up with US pharma company Pfizer to produce the shot which is based on novel mRNA technology, and was the first Covid-19 jab to be approved in the West late last year.

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The Swedish university training Ukrainian teachers for Swedish schools

Ukrainian teachers fleeing war in their home country are undergoing training at Malmö University to be able to work in Swedish schools this autumn.

The Swedish university training Ukrainian teachers for Swedish schools

“They possess fantastic competencies which municipalities should be taking advantage of,” university lecturer Christina Johnsson said.

One topic discussed in the course is Swedish discrimination legislation. Johnsson, who is a lecturer in public law, opened discussions with cases where students’ clothing had been questioned, and where students wanted to be defined by a different gender. This provided the backdrop of a debate among the Ukrainian teachers regarding the issue of gender identity.

“It’s maybe a bit unusual for us,” Hanna Karasevych said during a coffee break, “but it’s not completely new or shocking. I had a female student who wanted to be a boy and changed her name,” she said.

Malmö University is the first in Sweden to arrange the introductory courses which are carried out on behalf of the National Agency for Education (Skolverket). The Ukrainian teachers will receive basic knowledge of the Swedish school system and the relationship between teacher and student. Other topics such as human rights, cultural issues and the school’s democratic responsibility are on the agenda.

“The Ukrainian school system has undergone big changes over the past few years, transitioning from a Soviet-style system to a school which puts children in focus,” Olga Skozyk said.

“Since the war broke out, I truly understand the degree of responsibility teachers have to build an identity for future members of society.”

“The Ukrainian school should have more insight on discrimination issues, there has been a big gap when it comes to these sort of issues”, said Iryina Kliuchnikova.

The idea behind the four-week course is for the Ukrainian teachers to be ready to start working in autumn, as teaching assistants to Ukrainian pupils attending Swedish schools, for example. This is something the teachers are looking forward to.

“Just to get together with other teachers from Ukraine here during the course has been such a huge joy for us,” Hanna Karasevych said.

“Such a huge joy for us.” Hanna Karasevych is enjoying the opportunity to get together with other teachers from Ukraine. Photo: Jan Samuelsson/TT

“Everyone smiles more and more each day. I have been a teacher for 20 years and have a big passion for teaching. I am an English language teacher and hope to be able to teach in a Swedish school. But any kind of job is okay, I want to have teaching back in my life.”

The teachers also liked the fact that the course covered issues like gender identity and discrimination, which aren’t discussed as much in Ukraine.

“[Students’ clothing] is not a big topic in Ukraine,” Tetiana Petrushehak said. “But it is a complicated issue and it is good that we got the chance to discuss it.”

“We are very grateful for this course and to get the opportunity to work in schools. Everyone has different goals and expectations but we all want a new start in Sweden,” she added.

“We can learn a lot from the Swedish system but we can’t copy it exactly,” Olga Skozyk said. Photo: Jan Samuelsson/TT

“There are a lot of differences in mentality, identity and other things,” Skozyk said.

Lecturer Christina Johnsson was impressed by her students’ level of knowledge, adding that the Ukrainian school system is “more developed than the Swedish one” in some respects.

She also noted that the Ukrainian teachers ask the same sort of questions that other teachers or students studying to become teachers ask, and her students’ status as refugees is rarely brought up in conversation.

“It seems to be very important for them to be in the professional sphere, focusing on teaching and not discussing the fact that they are refugees,” she said.

Malmö University plans to set up a course with similar content which will award university credits, in partnership with Stockholm University, Gothenburg University and Dalarna University. In the future, this course could also be used for refugee teachers from other countries, not just Ukraine.