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Vaccinating children could be on cards, says health director

Vaccinating children could be on cards, says health director

3 min. 16.09.2021 From our online archive
Government's top health advisor, Jean-Claude Schmit, is 'almost certain' that vaccines for children will be approved within three months
Jean-Claude Schmit, Luxembourg's director of health
Jean-Claude Schmit, Luxembourg's director of health
Photo credit: Sibila Lind

By Jean-Michel Hennebert and Heledd Pritchard

Children from the age of six onwards could potentially be vaccinated in Luxembourg after the government’s top health advisor said vaccinating the youngest would be a huge step forward in tackling the pandemic.

Just under 65% of the population have received at least one dose, statistics from Oxford University's Our World in Data showed last week, and around half of children aged 12 to 18 were estimated to have been fully vaccinated by the time they returned to school this week, Education Minister Claude Meisch said.

But if Luxembourg is to ease its way out of the pandemic, children will likely have to be vaccinated, the country’s director of health, Jean-Claude Schmit, told the Luxemburger Wort.

“I’m almost certain that in the next two to three months we will have a vaccination authorised for children,” he said. “It will pose a debate in society, but we will probably have a vaccination for children.”

“I don’t think that very small children will be vaccinated as a priority but probably from six years old or so,” he added.

If children will be vaccinated, they will receive an mRNA vaccine, Schmit said, such as Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, and healthcare staff would adapt the dose to the child. Children aged 12 and over are also offered mRNA vaccines, according to the government’s Covid-19 website.

Children under the age of 12 are currently the only group which have not been offered a vaccine.

The government will be keeping a close eye on the Covid-19 situation in schools, Schmit said, as pupils returned for the new school year this week without having to wear a mask in the classroom or playground.

In some countries, such as neighbouring France, healthcare workers are being forced to have a vaccine or face suspension without pay. Luxembourg has not made vaccinations mandatory but is instead trying to encourage people who are not yet vaccinated to get the jab, by introducing measures such as the end of free PCR tests.

“For now, we are still working on motivating people but I can’t exclude that at some point, if we don’t succeed, the political opinion will shift and we will go towards mandatory vaccination for certain groups of people,” Schmit said.

The government's top health advisor does not believe ministers will push for mandatory vaccines for everyone, but added that any scheme would be broken down by categories.

Any such move, Schmit said, would first of all likely involve healthcare workers and carers who are in contact with vulnerable people. It would then be extended to carers “in the broader sense of the term” such as hairdressers, crèche workers and cleaning staff who are also in close physical contact with vulnerable people, he added.

Only around 3% of people in Luxembourg are against the vaccine but many remain hesitant and others have not got round to going for a jab, Schmit said.

The government is likely to offer vaccines in locations which would be convenient for people in a bid to make it easier for them to get the jab, such as in supermarkets, the country's director of health added.

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