Covid: EU approves Pfizer-BioNTech jab for 12-15 year olds
The EU’s medicines agency (EMA) has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 12-15 year olds – the first jab allowed for this age group in the bloc.
Friday’s announcement came after the World Health Organization’s Europe director warned that the pandemic would not be over until at least 70% of the population had been vaccinated.
The EU has already approved the Pfizer vaccine for those aged 16 and older.
Individual states must now decide if they will offer the jab to children.
Marco Cavaleri, the EMA’s head of vaccine strategy, announced the move for the 12 to 15s at a news conference on Friday, saying the age group would require two doses with an interval of at least three weeks.
German leaders announced on Thursday that vaccinations of children over 12 would start on 7 June.
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“Our best friend is speed, the time is working against us. We need to accelerate,
we need to enlarge the number of vaccines.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the vaccine will not be compulsory for children and one survey suggested that only 51% of parents wanted their children to be vaccinated.
Florian Hoffmann, the head of Germany’s Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine, has said that adults should be prioritised “because they have a much higher risk of getting a serious course of the virus which could see them end up in intensive care”.
Earlier on Friday, WHO Europe director Hans Kluge warned that the vaccine rollout across the region was still “too slow”.
“The pandemic will be over once we reach 70% minimum coverage in vaccination,” he told AFP news agency.
Mr Kluge said he remained concerned about the increased contagiousness of new variants, adding that speed was of the essence.
“We know for example that the B.1617 (Indian variant) is more transmissible than the B.117 (UK or Kent variant), which already was more transmissible than the previous strain,” he said.
“Our best friend is speed, the time is working against us. We need to accelerate, we need to enlarge the number of vaccines.”
France is to open up vaccinations to everyone aged over 18 from 31 May, the government has said. Until now only adults aged 50 and over have been eligible.