The Netherlands will give Covid vaccines to medically vulnerable adolescents
June 9, 2021 at 4:42 p.m.: This story was updated when the Ministry of Health said it would follow the Health Council's advice.
The Netherlands will begin vaccinating a younger group of people against Covid-19. Children aged 12-15 who are vulnerable to serious symptoms of the coronavirus disease will be eligible to be vaccinated, in addition to those aged 16 and 17.
There are between 60 and 100 thousand people eligible within the group. They will be invited for a vaccination by the end of June.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge made the decision based on advice received Wednesday from the Dutch Health Council. The advisory board gave a positive recommendation for protecting children aged 12 to 17 with a medical risk against Covid-19 using the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, the only vaccine approved for use in the European market for people that young.
The Council said it would later consider whether teenagers who do not fall within a group at high risk for serious Covid-19 symptoms should also be vaccinated.
The young people who should be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccination are those who are regularly invited for a flu shot, such as those with lung diseases, cancer, and immune deficiencies. Invitations will also be extended to young people who are obese, those with Down's Syndrome, others residing in an institution due to health issues. In "exceptional cases" it should also be possible for teenagers who do not necessarily fall within these groups, the Council indicated.
"The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine is sufficiently effective and safe for use from the age of 12 and it provides direct and indirect health benefits to children at medical risk," the Council said in emergency advice submitted to the Ministry of Health on Wednesday. Caretaker Health Minister Hugo de Jonge requested the advice after a study showed that the Pfizer vaccine can be used safely in people in that age group.
"For them, a vaccination is not only protection against coronavirus, but also the key to more freedom: carefree going to school, meeting friends or taking up a side job,” De Jonge said.
Because children at medical risk are more likely to develop more severe forms of the coronavirus disease, it is wise to use the vaccine with them first, the advisory body said. "Children with a chronic condition have an increased risk of a serious course of Covid-19 compared to healthy children. Some of them are also still limited in their daily lives for fear of the consequences of infection," the Dutch Health Council stated.
In cases where a child is not able to be vaccinated, their housemates and others around them will be vaccinated instead.