Parents will be invited to have their children aged five to 11 vaccinated against coronavirus from Tuesday, as the Dutch vaccination programme enters its next stage.
Parents are being sent a letter asking them to make a first appointment at a regional health council vaccination centre. Children will be given two doses of the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine eight weeks apart.
According to research by public health institute RIVM, 47% of parents say they will allow their offspring to be vaccinated but the rest either won’t or have doubts. The older the child, the more likely parents are to approve of vaccination.
In particular, the parents of young children are concerned about unknown, long-term side effects, the RIVM said. The vaccine has been approved for use in children by the European Medicines Agency.
The Dutch health council approved the vaccination of children in early December, saying this will reduce the spread of the virus in schools, sports clubs and society in general, so allowing some restrictions to be eased.
The council also stressed the importance of providing clear information for parents and children and said that all forms of coercion should be avoided. ‘The decision whether to or not to take advantage of vaccination must not lead to children being kept off school or other social exclusion,’ the council said at the time.
Most children do not suffer from serious illness if they catch coronavirus, although a very small minority have had a complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome which has left some with longer term problems.
In addition, vaccinating children will help slow the spread of coronavirus because children may have no symptoms but can transmit it to parents, grandparents and teachers, who may be more susceptible to a more severe infection, experts say.
The take-up rate in the regular childhood vaccination programme is over 90%.
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