Wednesday, December 8, 2021

European countries add boosters and plan injections for children amid COVID surge

European countries expanded COVID-19 vaccinations, began scheduling vaccinations for young children, and tightened some restrictions on Thursday as the continent struggled with a spike in coronavirus cases and concerns about its economic impact.

Slovakia was locked down for two weeks, and the Czech government declared a 30-day state of emergency, involving the early closure of bars and clubs and a ban on Christmas markets. Germany has crossed the threshold of 100,000 deaths associated with COVID-19.

Europe is at the epicenter of the latest wave of COVID-19, reporting a million new infections every two days and now accounting for nearly two-thirds of new infections worldwide.

On Thursday, the European Commission suggested that EU residents need to be vaccinated if they want to travel to another block country next summer without the need for tests or quarantines.

More boosters in France

In France, authorities announced that booster shots will be available to all people over 18, not just people over 65 and those with health problems.

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Many countries are introducing or expanding the use of booster vaccines, although the World Health Organization wants the most vulnerable people in the world to be fully vaccinated in the first place.

The head of the African Disease Control Authority said Thursday that in Africa, where only 6.6% of its 1.2 billion people are fully vaccinated, many countries are struggling logistically to accelerate their vaccination campaigns as vaccine supplies finally increase. …

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control on Wednesday recommended booster vaccinations for all adults, primarily those over 40.

According to the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, the number of new daily cases in Germany hit a record 75,961 on Thursday, with the total death toll reaching 100,119 since the pandemic began.

A healthcare professional and people awaiting a COVID-19 vaccination stand next to a nativity scene at the Christmas market in Offenbach, Germany, November 24, 2021. The Christmas booth was converted into a temporary vaccination center, where people queued for hours.

The data showed that such a surge is negatively affecting consumer sentiment in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, worsening business prospects during the Christmas shopping season.

Frames for young children

Vaccination of young children is increasing in some countries.

On Thursday, the European Medicines Commission approved the use of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine in children ages 5 to 11 at a lower dose, after vaccination was authorized for children ages 12 and older in May. The European Commission is expected to make a final decision on Friday.

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have been preparing to vaccinate young children after approval from the European Medicines Agency, although lower-dose shipments are not due until December 20.

In France, where the number of infections is doubling every 11 days, Health Minister Olivier Veran said he would ask health regulators to study if children aged 5 to 11 can be vaccinated.

Nearly half a million lives across Europe have been saved by vaccinations among people aged 60 and over since the vaccine was introduced, the World Health Organization’s regional office said Thursday in a study jointly with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

FILE - People holding placards protest at a rally in Prague, Czech Republic on November 22, 2021, to condemn government restrictions on unvaccinated people as new infections rise sharply across the European Union.  ZRADCE NARODA's words on the posters read: "Traitor to the nation."

FILE – People holding placards protest at a rally in Prague, Czech Republic on November 22, 2021, to condemn government restrictions on unvaccinated people as new infections rise sharply across the European Union. ZRADCE NARODA’s words on the posters read: “Traitor to the nation.”

Stricter curbs

Many European countries are tightening curbs. The state of emergency declared by the Czech Republic allows the government to impose restrictions on public life. Authorities ordered bars and clubs to close at 10:00 pm, banned Christmas markets, and restricted attendance at cultural and sports events to 1,000 people.

Slovakia’s two-week blockade since Thursday follows neighboring Austria, which began the blockade on Monday. Slovakia, with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the EU, reported a critical situation in hospitals and new infections that exceeded global tables.

Authorities have ordered the closure of all shops and services except for the main ones and have banned people from traveling outside their neighborhoods unless they go to work, school, or a doctor. Gatherings of more than six people are prohibited.

French authorities said the rules for wearing masks will be tightened and checks on medical passes used to enter public places will be strengthened. But officials said there was no need to keep an eye on European countries that re-imposed locks.

In Germany, Greens co-leader Annalena Baerbock said the new government, which includes Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens and Free Democrats (FDP), has given itself 10 days to decide whether additional restrictions will be needed.

Much of Germany has already put in place rules restricting access to indoor classes for people who have been vaccinated or recovered.

Warning in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals has reached levels not seen since early May, and experts have warned that hospitals will reach full capacity in just over a week if the virus is not contained.

The Dutch government has said it will take drastic measures to combat infections. National broadcaster NOS reported on Thursday that a leading government outbreak control group has advised restaurants, bars and non-essential stores to close by 5:00 pm as part of a new lockdown package.

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