Children aged 5 to 11 will soon have the chance to get vaccinated against the coronavirus in the Netherlands, Dutch Public Health Minister, Hugo de Jonge, announced.
All children in this age group should receive their invitation for the first injection, to be administered in the second half of January 2022, according to reports from Belga News Agency.
“Parents are free to choose to vaccinate children but the Health Council advises it,” de Jonge said, stressing that the decision was driven both by the direct health benefits as well as the need to end restrictive measures imposed on this age group, such as school closures.
The Dutch Health Council stressed that this recommendation to parents to get their children vaccinated should not be accompanied by any pressure on children. Not getting vaccinated should not lead children to be excluded from activities or from school.
Earlier this week, the Health Council advised that young children with underlying disorders be vaccinated. This included severe asthma, chronic lung diseases or congenital heart defects.
It added that although the infection of a healthy child in this age group generally causes just a mild illness, the advantages of vaccination outweigh the disadvantages.
Awaiting Belgian announcement
At the end of November, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years, recommending that children receive a lower dose of the vaccine than is used in everyone aged 12 and over (10 µg compared with 30 µg). This will be the case when the vaccine is administered in the Netherlands.
As with the older age groups, the vaccines will be administered as two injections in the muscles of the upper arm, three weeks apart.
In Belgium, the Interministerial Conference has asked the Superior Health Council, together with the Committee on Bioethics, to make an advisory report on the vaccination of 5- to 11-year-olds with the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine by mid-December.
Virologist Steven Van Gucht has been at the forefront of arguing in favour of the vaccination of young children against Covid-19, especially as infections spread rapidly through primary schools resulting in various measures being imposed in schools and extracurricular activities being restricted.
“I hope this will be possible next year and that many parents will sign their child up; vaccinating children in itself is not anything new,” he told The Brussels Times, adding that this would give children some breathing space.