Austria likely to recommend COVID boosters from age 12

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Austria is likely to soon recommend COVID-19 booster shots for children aged 12 and over once four months have passed since their second vaccine dose, Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said.

The move would again put Austria ahead of most European countries in terms of vaccinating children. Some of its nine provinces including Vienna started vaccinating children as of the age of five last month shortly before it was approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Austria has accelerated its vaccination efforts since a surge in coronavirus infections last month that prompted a three-week national lockdown, which began lifting last Sunday.

“The National Vaccination Board will likely recommend tomorrow that we recommend the booster shot, i.e. the third vaccine dose, from the age of 12,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein told a news conference.

“That means that four months after their second shot all those as of the age of 12 should also get their booster shot,” Mueckstein said. That would lower the age at which that recommendation applies from 18 currently.

The board is a panel of experts that advises the government. The government generally follows its recommendations.

Roughly 69% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. The conservative-led government plans to make vaccinations compulsory, with hefty fines for holdouts.

EMA should approve the vaccine developed by U.S. biotech company Novavax this week, Director General for Public Health Katharina Reich told the news conference. The vaccine contains a version of the virus’ spike protein that cannot cause disease but can trigger the immune system.

“We expect approval this week and some time later – I hope that it will still be in December – we also want to have the vaccine in the country,” she said.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Susan Fenton

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