Covid-19: Czech paediatricians balk at minimum jab order, Health Ministry’s vax goal for kids falling short

As of this week, Czech paediatricians can begin ordering anti-coronavirus vaccines for their patients over the age of 12, directly in their surgeries. But many doctors are hesitating to place even the minimum order of 50 vaccines, due to a lack of demand.

The Ministry of Health has been pushing to speed up the vaccination of children aged 12 to 15 ahead of the new school year, first by increasing the capacity of centres vaccinating minors, and now also in paediatricians’ surgeries.

As of mid-August, less than a quarter of schoolchildren in the target age have registered to get vaccines against Covid-19, and only half of them have gotten the first jab of a Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine, approved by the European Medicines Agency for that age group in May. The Moderna jab, which requires just one dose, was approved in late July.

With just over three weeks’ summer holidays left, the Ministry of Health signed a contract on Friday with the vaccine distributor Avenier, which over the weekend began informing paediatricians about the minimum order and other practical details.

Czech Radio reporter Václav Plecháček, who covers the health beat, says the initial response on the part of children’s doctors has been underwhelming – especially given that only fully vaccinated pupils will be able to return to school in September without tests.

“Many paediatricians say they will not manage to administer so many doses. According to the Association of General Practitioners for Children and Adolescents, the ideal order would be just 10 doses, not 50.

Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

“Paediatricians are now deciding whether to order vaccines at all, or trying to agree with a colleague to share them. But that effort is complicated due to the holidays.

“Some plan to offer vaccinations to children and their parents, which they say could help, especially in areas where the vaccination coverage of the entire population is low.”

Many Czech parents, who may be hesitant to get the jab themselves are even more apprehensive about vaccinating their children. They fear kids are more likely to have a bad reaction, and less likely to recover from it.

But Dr. Irena Krčmová from the Department of Clinical Immunology and Allergology at the University Hospital Hradec Králové, says those fears are unwarranted. And with vaccinations key to achieving herd immunity, the “herd” must also include children.

“I must stress that reactions to vaccinations are extremely, extremely rare. In patients at risk, we can anticipate the risk and immediately administer life-saving drugs. Sometimes reactions occur unexpectedly. But again, these are isolated cases, a few thousand among tens of millions of Covid-19 vaccines.”

“What’s more, in general children tolerate vaccinations quite well. If a child has an abnormal, disproportionate reaction, we must proceed with caution. But, again, that is truly exceptional. I support vaccinations and greatly appreciate that it is possible to vaccinate children from the age of 12 in the Czech Republic.”

After vaccination against Covid-19, approximately 4,570 people out of 5.08 million people in the Czech Republic contracted the virus, not even one in a thousand, according to Institute of Health Information and Statistics (ÚZIS) data.

Since July, an average of 75 percent of those newly infected were unvaccinated. The lion’s share were adolescents and people in their twenties or thirties.