COMPARED: How Covid vaccination rules for children differ around Europe

COMPARED: How Covid vaccination rules for children differ around Europe
Photo: Pascal Pochard-Casabianca / AFP
While more than half of all French teenagers have had at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, other countries don't offer it to under 18s while in some places it depends on where you live - here's a look at the policy on vaccinating children around Europe (and in the USA and Canada).

Sweden’s rules are different to Switzerland’s, while Spain’s vaccine programme – like that of the UK – differs right now depending on where you live. Here, we explain the ever-changing rules in countries around the world.

France

The French vaccination programme opened up to under 18s in mid-June, and latest data shows that more than half of all French teenagers have had at least one dose, while a quarter are fully vaccinated.

France was one of the first countries to start vaccinating its under 18s, opening up its vaccination programme to 12 to 17 year olds on June 15th. Data from Santé Publique France on August 16th showed that 51.6 percent of the country’s 5 million 12 to 17 year olds have had at least one dose, while 26.6 percent are fully vaccinated.

READ ALSO Back-to-school Covid-19 health rules in France from September 2021

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From the end of September, children aged over 12 will need to start showing the health passport to access venues like cafés and cinemas. While the health passport will not be compulsory for schools there is an extra incentive for parents – only unvaccinated children will be sent home from school if a classmate tests positive for Covid.

Germany

Germany’s vaccine advisory board had held off on an over-arching recommendation of the Covid jab for all 12 to 17 year olds. But it recently did a U-turn after analysing new research. 

It had previously recommended the vaccine for the age group only if they had pre-existing conditions – such as diabetes or obesity – or if they lived with people at high risk from Covid.

But the Standing Commission on Vaccination announced on Monday, August 16th, that it was recommending the Covid-19 vaccine for everyone aged 12 and above, bringing Germany into line with a host of other EU countries.

READ ALSO Germany’s vaccine panel recommends Covid jab for everyone over 12

Italy

Italian authorities have now administered 73 million shots, meaning that 70 percent of the Italian population aged 12 and over have received their first jab – though the 12 to 17 year old group is lagging behind.

Health officials in Italy opened up Covid-19 vaccinations to 12 to 17 year olds in June, and some 23 percent of 12 to 19 year olds were fully vaccinated by the time the government gave this age group priority for jabs on August 16th.

Since the beginning of this week, Italian teenagers have been able to get their vaccine doses without booking an appointment. The move was intended to give “impetus” to vaccinating younger people ahead of the return to school in September by creating “fast lanes” for a group of the population that is still largely unvaccinated.

READ ALSO Covid-19: Italy says 70 percent of population vaccinated with first dose is ‘comforting’

Sweden

Children aged 16 and 17 are eligible for vaccinations in Sweden, while the Public Health Agency of Sweden is also offering vaccination against the virus for certain groups of patients in the 12 to 15 age group – but there are no plans to lower the age range just yet. 

Officials have said, however, that they are not ruling out extending the vaccine programme to include younger people.

Some regions ask parents to fill out a consent form, but over-16s are generally seen as being able to make their own medical decisions, so anyone who wants to be vaccinated can do so, even without parental consent. In such cases, medical staff will make an on-the-spot assessment of whether or not the teenager seems mature enough to understand what they are asking for.

READ ALSO OPINION: I believe Sweden will regret its approach to Covid in schools

Norway

The country’s Health Minister Bent Høie announced that a final decision over whether to vaccinate Norway’s 16 and 17 year olds was to be made this month, rather than September as originally planned. 

Municipalities have been told to prepare for the eventuality that those in this age group will get jabs. 

“If we recommend that this group should also be offered a vaccine, it is important that it happens in such a way that it is safe for the children,” Høie said. 

Covid-19 vaccination for this age group is unlikely to begin until at least September 12th. By this time, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health expects everyone over 18 to be fully jabbed. There are currently no plans to start vaccinating under 16s.

Spain

In Spain, access to the vaccine for teenagers depends on where you live.

The majority of Spain’s regions are now vaccinating their older teens and at least six autonomous communities have started inoculating 12 to 15 year olds – the rest plan to do so before children head back to school in September. 

“At present the priority is to vaccinate children above 12 because those below that age fortunately have not shown serious complications if they have caught the virus,” Joan Cayla, of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology, said.

READ ALSO OPINION: ‘Not all parents in Spain are in favour of their children getting the Covid vaccine’

Denmark

The Danish Health Authority endorsed vaccinating children in the 12-15 age range in June, with vaccinations starting in July. Children aged 15 have received invitations to appointments, while parents of children aged 12 to 14 were invited to bring their children for vaccination.

But the decision to approve vaccines for younger children was not universally supported, with some parents showing hesitation to allow their children to be vaccinated and paediatricians not fully supporting the Danish Health Authority advice to vaccinate children against Covid-19.

Switzerland

Switzerland approved vaccinations against coronavirus for children aged 12 to 15 from June 23rd, with the government confirming that parental consent to vaccinate would not be necessary.

Vaccinations of children are considered to be essential to the Swiss inoculation strategy, which aims to reach herd immunity in the population, meaning about 80 percent of the population were protected against the virus.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines can be administered for anyone over 12.

READ ALSO Switzerland approves Moderna vaccine for teenagers

Austria

Austria has approved vaccinations from ages 12 and up, and aims to have all the country’s estimated 340,000 children aged 12 to 17 vaccinated by the end of August.

But how long they will have to wait is likely to depend largely on which state you are in. Vienna opened registrations for children to get vaccinated in May, while the other states kicked into gear around July. 

While vaccines have been deemed safe for people aged 12 and older, only those above 14 years of age are deemed to have the capacity to decide whether to get the vaccine. This means that those aged 12 and 13 will need parental consent, while those aged 14 and over can do so regardless of what their parents say. 

The vaccines from Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna are approved for people under the age of 18 in Austria. 

READ ALSO What are the rules for vaccinating children in Austria?

Ireland 

Ireland opened registration for Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines to anyone aged 12 to 15 on August 12th – prompting a rush of appointments.

Some 30,000 people in this age group were vaccinated at the weekend alone, according to reports, while 10,000 more 16 and 17 year olds, who were already eligible for inoculation, followed suit.

EU

Countries within the EU decide their own health policy – as shown by the wide range of different protocols above – but the European Medicines Agency does conduct its own approvals on vaccines for certain age groups.

Some EU countries accept these recommendations while others conduct their own national reviews in addition to the EMA’s study.

The EMA approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children aged between 12 and 15 in May, after analysing the results of a study involving 2,200 children, while Moderna was approved for under 12-15s in July.

Canada

In May, Canada became the first country in the world to authorise Covid-19 vaccines for children aged 12 to 15.

As of August 7th, a total 74.38 percent of the country’s 12 to 17 year olds had received at least one dose of vaccine – and 53.04 percent were fully vaccinated, according to official figures.

USA

In the US, everyone aged 12 and over is eligible for vaccination, while clinical trials are underway for children as young as six months to get Covid-19 vaccines.

Pfizer expects to have enough data by the end of September to support an emergency use authorisation for its vaccine in children aged six and older. Data for children aged under six will be submitted shortly afterward, it has said.

UK

The UK has more complex rules, with the devolved governments operating different policies.

From August 23rd, all 16 and 17 year olds in England will be invited to get vaccinated, while children aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable to Covid or live with adults who are at increased risk of serious illness from the virus will be invited for their vaccine over the coming weeks.

More than a million children and young people could be eligible for inoculation as a result of the change in policy, NHS England said.

Invitations to anyone in the same age group are already being sent out in Wales.

But 16 and 17 year olds in Northern Ireland have been able to receive vaccinations since August 6th – with regional vaccination centres offering walk-in services for first doses of Pfizer vaccines.

Some clinics in Scotland started offering vaccinations to 16 and 17 year olds just 24 hours later than their colleagues in Northern Ireland. By August 10th, all Scottish clinics were injecting young people in that age group. It had previously offered vaccines to children over 12 with certain health conditions, or who live with others who are at a high risk, or who are nearing their 18th birthday.


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  1. The expression about the German vaccine advisory board is very euphemistic: “But it recently did a U-turn after analysing new research.”

    Most people in Germany know that this “new research” was nothing else than pressure applied by the ruling politicians, who want to buy and use as many vaxx doses as possible, for whatever reason.

    One of those politicians is German’s minister of health, who has no medical knowledge at all and is a bank clerk by profession. But his ability to buy some new mansion just during the pandemic (while telling the poorest people in Germany that they shouldn’t complain), shows that he’s at least able to make a good bargain for himself.

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