While some countries are concerned about lack of data on vaccine effects, others started inoculation without specially-made kits for kids.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech's lower-dose vaccine on the five-11 age group last month.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech's lower-dose vaccine on the five-11 age group last month. (Reuters)

As Europe starts vaccinating younger children, countries are pursuing very different strategies in what will be a major test of parents' willingness to get their kids inoculated.

"Vaccination must be a game, a joyful moment when children can feel at ease," said health chief of the central Lazio region of Italy Alessio D'Amato in a video as he declared December 15 "Vax Day" for children in the region.

One region in Italy is sending in clowns and jugglers to clinics, France and Germany are targeting only the most vulnerable kids, while Denmark has been administering shots even before the specially-designed vials and syringes have arrived.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech's lower-dose vaccine on the five-11 age group last month, following the go-ahead for older children in May.

The first deliveries of the smaller pediatric vials will not arrive until Monday. Timings for the rollout vary, but most countries are preparing to start getting shots into young arms a day or two after the first shipments arrive.

Inoculating children and young people, who can unwittingly transmit Covid-19 to others at higher risk of serious illness, is considered a critical step towards taming the pandemic. In Germany and the Netherlands, kids now account for the majority of cases.

The roll-out comes as the European Union battles a major wave of infections, accounting for well over half of global infections and 50 percent of deaths globally.

READ MORE: Vienna starts vaccinating children in pilot project - latest updates

Vaccine hesitancy vs acceptance  

In the Netherlands, 42 percent of almost 1,800 parents with kids in the five-12 age range said they would not get their children inoculated and 12 percent said they would probably decline, according to a poll by Dutch current affairs television programme Een Vandaag. 

Only 30 percent said they would get their kids vaccinated.

A survey in Italy by polling firm Noto Sondaggi published on December 5 found that almost two-thirds of those surveyed backed vaccinations, but the percentage dropped to 40 percent among parents with children aged five-12 years old.

A lack of data on the effects on children was given as the main reason for the hesitancy, while a third thought that children would be less likely to get infected and 9 percent worried about long-term side-effects.

Some parents have been concerned about reports of heart inflammation, a rare vaccine side effect seen in young men at higher rates than the rest of the population.

No serious safety concerns related to the vaccine have been identified in clinical trials, Pfizer and BioNTech have said.

Still, some governments are limiting the rollout until there is more data available.

Some health authorities, however, aren't even waiting for the specially-made kits to arrive and are using vaccines in stock for adults, extracting only a third of the dose.

The Austrian capital Vienna, Denmark and Germany have already booked thousands of vaccination slots for children over the past two weeks.

READ MORE: Pfizer submits data to use vaccine in 5 to 11-year-olds – latest updates

Source: Reuters