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EU regulator says yes to BioNTech/Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for younger kids

EU countries can soon start vaccinating children as young as five against COVID-19 after the European Medicines Agency said the BioNTech/Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was safe and effective in younger kids.

The EMA’s medicines committee CHMP recommended Thursday that the vaccine is given as two doses three weeks apart to those aged five to 11. The dose in this age group is one third of the amount given to those aged 12 and older, the EMA said.

A study in this age range showed this lower dose elicited a similar antibody response to those seen in adults aged 16 to 25.

A placebo-controlled study of nearly 2,000 children aged five to 11 with no prior coronavirus infection demonstrated the vaccine was 90.7 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

Side effects seen in the study were similar to those seen in adults, like injection site soreness and headaches and chills.

Since the Delta variant has dominated in Europe, infection rates have soared especially among young people. While there are less likely to experience severe illness, they are bringing the highly transmissible virus back into their homes.

In Austria, which has just gone into a full lockdown and plans a general vaccine mandate from February, the latest weekly incidence in 5- to 14-year-olds is 2,249 cases per 100,000 people — more than double the national figure.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday also changed tack and supported vaccinating children, based on local situations, but said that the global sharing of vaccines should come first.

Once the EMA’s decision is rubber stamped by the European Commission, EU countries will decide if and when to roll out the jab to younger children.

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