Tartu, Estonia (Associated Press)-13-year-old Gloria Raudjarv took her father through the vaccination center in the gymnasium of the second largest city in Estonia and walked to a nurse who gave her the first dose COVID-19 vaccine.
So far, about half of Tartu’s 12 to 17-year-old adolescents have received the first shot, and local health officials are working to reach 70% before the school resumes on September 1.
“I really want to go to school. We have been learning remotely for a long time,” she said, holding her vaccination certificate.
Two months after the European Medicines Agency recommended that Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine be expanded to children between 12 and 15 years of age, young people across Europe have huge differences in access to vaccination. Last week, the European Union’s drug regulatory agency also approved Moderna’s vaccine for the same age group.
Although countries such as Estonia, Denmark and France actively encourage families to vaccinate their children before the start of the new school year, other countries such as Sweden and the United Kingdom have not yet begun to vaccinate children under 18 years of age.
At the same time, the World Health Organization stated that given the extremely limited global supply and the significantly reduced risk of serious diseases and deaths they face, children are not a priority for vaccination. It urges rich countries to stop vaccinating children and donate vaccines to developing countries instead.
However, despite the rise in vaccination rates among European adults, there is concern that young people will accelerate the spread of the virus because the highly transmitted delta variants will produce new infections.
Maria Theodoridou, chairman of the National Vaccination Committee of Greece, said that the number of positive cases among children and adolescents in Greece has increased significantly in the past few weeks.
“As we know, children and adolescents are the source of the spread of the virus,” Theodoridou said, adding that the most at risk are those who have not been vaccinated in the children’s environment.
She warned that infected children “will cause new mutations and reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.”
In Europe, vaccination of children is still voluntary, but in Denmark, more than one-third of children aged 12 to 15 are receiving the first dose of the vaccine, and health officials hope that parents will accept everyone’s advice to get vaccinated before returning to class.
In France, one-third of children between the ages of 12 and 17 have been vaccinated at least once. The French Minister of Education announced this week that starting from September, students in this age group who have not been vaccinated will be dismissed from school. Infected with COVID-19.
Critics say this will create a two-level education system that unfairly discriminates against children whose parents oppose vaccines. The WHO stated that as long as at-risk adults, including teachers and parents, are protected, there is no need to vaccinate children.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, only a quarter of 12 to 15 people who have been vaccinated by Pfizer since May received the second dose. Approximately 37% of 16- and 17-year-olds in the United States are vaccinated.
In Estonia, youth vaccination campaigns are carried out by municipal authorities, and Tartu’s rapid promotion is due to strong publicity campaigns through schools and social media, simple registration procedures and an educated population. Tartu is a university and research city.
For the teenagers themselves, it is mainly to see their friends again. Since February, schools in Estonia have been closed for in-school learning, but there are some exceptions for the youngest children and children taking exams.
Gloria, who is about to enter the seventh grade and aspires to become a singer, looks forward to returning to the campus stage.
“Contact, interaction, discussion, and changes in the environment, it’s really important to go to school from home,” said Ortmed, a biology teacher at the Hugo Trevna Stadium in the city, who missed the face-to-face teaching.
More than 3,100 teenagers have been vaccinated, and there are still four weeks before the school resumes. The Deputy Mayor of Tartu, Mihkel Lees, believes that the city will achieve 70% for students aged 12 to 17 by September 1. Vaccination goals
If not, they have plan B.
“If we cannot vaccinate enough children and adolescents at the vaccination center in the summer,” he said, “the school nurse will join.”
Contributors include Jill Lawless and Maria Cheng from London, Elena Becatoros from Athens, Angela Charlton from Paris and David Keyton from Stockholm, Sweden.