The UK health regulator on June 4 granted emergency use clearance to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use on children aged between 12 and 15.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – the UK’s top medicine regulatory body – finalized the decision after “rigorously” assessing the data submitted by Pfizer on the trials conducted on minors.
The MHRA said that the benefits of inoculating children with the vaccine outweighed its risks.
“We have in place a comprehensive safety surveillance strategy for monitoring the safety of all UK-approved COVID-19 vaccines, and this surveillance will include the 12- to 15-year age group,” said Dr. June Raine, MHRA chief executive.
The UK was the world’s first country to approve the vaccine, developed by American drug giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech, for emergency use on all adults and minors aged between 16 and 18 in December last year.
Although the 16 and 17-year-olds are eligible for the vaccine, the country had not included them in the regular immunization drive. They were given the jabs only under certain circumstances – for instance, if they are household contacts of immunosuppressed people.
With the jabs now cleared for the 12-15 age group, experts are likely to take a call to start the inoculation program for all children aged above 12.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson, while speaking to Sky News, said the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) would advise whether routine vaccination should be offered to those in the 12-17 age bracket.
Pfizer, which has conducted clinical tests on adolescents in the US, said in March that its vaccine was 100 percent safe for children. Albert Bourla, chief executive officer of the company, said the trials were “encouraging,” and countries worldwide can use the jabs to begin vaccinating students ahead of the next school year.