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COVID-19

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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EDUCATION

Government drops plans to move welfare education to smaller Denmark towns

The new Danish government has dropped plans to move 800 places on welfare courses from big cities to smaller towns in Denmark, according to national broadcaster DR News.

Government drops plans to move welfare education to smaller Denmark towns

In 2021 the Social Democrats’ government proposed to relocate 25 higher education courses to smaller towns across the country, while cutting university admissions in the largest cities by 10 percent.

The agreement was that 60 percent of admissions to welfare programmes, including nursing, pedagogue, social work and teacher training, would be located in smaller towns. This meant 800 places moving out of the cities and 1000 new places created in towns. 

The Liberals party (Venstre) had supported the idea but the new coalition government of the Social Democrats, Liberals and Moderates, now want the welfare departments to be excluded from the relocation plans. This is due to a concern over the current shortage of people working in Denmark’s welfare sector.

The number of students who enrolled in nursing, pedagogue, social work and teacher training, fell by 14 percent in 2022, compared to 2019, before the coronavirus. In the smaller towns, the number dropped by 21 percent. 

The 2021 relocation agreement meant the University College of Northern Denmark (UCN) in Aalborg had started planning a teaching course in Skørping in Rebild Municipality. But the Principal, Kristina Kristoffersen told DR she is relieved the plan can now be dropped.

“We feared that we would not get students to actually apply, and that we would therefore not be able to cover the labour market needs here in North Jutland”, she said.

Former Minister of Education and Research, Jesper Petersen, said the new plans were “deeply worrying”. He maintained that it was important for more education programmes to be located in smaller towns.

“There is nothing strange in the fact that when you get a new government, you also get a new policy”, new Minister of Education and Research, Christina Egelund told DR.

She added that they needed to make sure enrolment in welfare education did not continue to drop. 

Plans to relocate the other higher education programmes under the 2021 agreement will still continue. Educational institutions can also choose to relocate study places if they wish to, Egelund added.

Steffen Damsgaard, chairman of the Community Council of Rural Districts (Landdistrikters Fællesråd) told newswire Ritzau he believed the government was making a rash decision.

“You must take the long-view, when you make this kind of initiative, to create a better educational balance”, he said.

He pointed out that it was important for the municipalities to have welfare training nearby, as this is where they recruit from. But he added recruitment problems could not be solved by relocating alone and that a closer look was needed as to why young people were not enrolling on welfare courses.

“We should see what other factors come into play. It’s not just about geography”, he said.

READ MORE: How to save money as a student in Denmark

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