SHARE
COPY LINK

COVID-19 VACCINES

EU approves first Covid jab for children aged 5 to 11

The EU's drug agency cleared Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine for use in children aged five to 11 on Thursday, the first jab to be approved in a cohort where the virus is rapidly spreading.

A child, age 8, receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine
A child, age 8, receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine Andrej Ivanov / AFP

Only a small handful of countries had previously given the nod for coronavirus vaccinations in younger children, including the United States, Israel and Canada.

“I’m glad to tell you that Comirnaty from today has received approval for children five to 11 years of age,” said Marco Cavaleri, head of vaccine strategy at the European Medicines Agency (EMA), using the vaccine’s brand name.

“This is based on a different dose in the one used in adults, essentially it’s a much lower dose,” he told an online public meeting.

The vaccine was already cleared for use in people aged 12 and over in the 27-nation EU.

Children aged five to 11 will be given one third of the dose that older people receive, with two injections, three weeks apart, the EMA said in a statement.

The vaccine was 90.7 percent effective in a study of nearly 2,000 children of that age, it added.

Side effects were usually “mild or moderate” lasting a few days, and included pain in the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain and chills.

The EMA “therefore concluded that the benefits of Comirnaty in children aged five to 11 outweigh the risks, particularly in those with conditions that increase the risk of severe Covid-19.”

The EU Commission will now likely approve the vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 but the ultimate decision over whether to roll out the Covid jab to yound kids will rest on the government of each member state.

France on Thursday said ministers were examining rolling out the vaccine to the age group but said there would be no decision before 2022.

But the Pfizer jab’s safety in children “will continue to be monitored closely”.

Health authorities say children make up an increasing proportion of new cases and hospitalisations in Europe, which is back at the centre of the coronavirus pandemic.

Children are also considered key drivers of infections even when they themselves do not come down with symptoms.

In the Netherlands, where the EMA is based, authorities said earlier this week that the largest increase in cases was among children up to the age of 12.

“We know that severe Covid-19 and death remain quite rare in children, however disease of all severity occurs in all the paediatric ages,” Cavaleri said.

“Moreover, high transmission results in increased hospitalisation in children of all ages.”

While children with underlying health conditions were more likely to become ill, the majority of children in hospital with Covid were otherwise healthy, said Cavaleri.

They were also at risk of so-called “long Covid” symptoms dragging on for months after infection, and multisystem inflammatory syndrome, he added.

The EMA is separately reviewing Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for children aged 6-11 and expects to reach a decision in January.

The regulator has so far approved four vaccines for use for adults in the EU: Pfizer and Moderna, which use messenger RNA technology, and AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, which use viral vector technology.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

TRAVELLING TO FRANCE

European travellers warned they may have to self-isolate in UK

People vaccinated in an EU or Schengen zone country are being warned that they may have to self-isolate if they travel to the UK, since the British contact tracing service does not recognise them as being fully vaccinated.

Arrivals in the UK should know about self-isolation rules.
Arrivals in the UK should know about self-isolation rules. Photo: Ben Fathers/AFP

After initially refusing to recognise any Covid vaccine administered outside the UK, the British government now counts as ‘fully vaccinated’ for travel purposes people who had both doses of the vaccine in an EU or Schengen zone country.

That means that those fully vaccinated can enter the country without having to quarantine.

However, once in the country, if they are alerted by the Test and Trace service as a contact case, they will have to self-isolate for 10 days.

Fully-vaccinated people are exempt from the requirement to self-isolate if a contact case – but this only applies to people who received their vaccines in the UK. The Test and Trace programme refuses to recognise any vaccines administered outside the UK, meaning that anyone vaccinated in the EU faces a 10-day self-isolation period. The ten days are counted from the time of contact with the person who tested positive.

Brexit: Why visiting Switzerland now costs 30 francs more for Brits

The Local asked the Department for Transport how they could justify the different treatment of people who had received the exact same vaccines in different countries and were told: “If a person has been vaccinated abroad they are required to self-isolate if they test positive or have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, even if they have received a vaccine equivalent to those approved by the MHRA for use in the UK.

“Our domestic verification process currently only recognises the vaccination status of individuals who received their vaccine in the UK. We continue to keep this under review.”

Daily average of confirmed new cases of Covid per million people for the UK, plus the countries covered by The Local. Map: Our World in Data

The UK government rules also state that anyone who has Covid symptoms should self isolate for 10 days, unless they have had a negative Covid test. This applies to everyone, including people who were fully vaccinated in the UK or abroad.

Self-isolation can be done at a private address if you are staying with family or friends, but those staying in hotels or Airbnb face having to extend their stay and rearrange transport home while they complete their 10-day self-isolation.

New cases in the UK are currently running at an average of about 50,000 – by far the highest in western Europe – so coming into contact with an infected person while on a visit to the UK is not unlikely.

Although most people vaccinated in Europe can now travel to the UK without having to quarantine on arrival, the UK government does not recognise people who had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard policy in many European countries – so people with this option will still have to quarantine.

Reader question: I’ve had one vaccine dose after recovery from Covid – what are my travel options?

Find more detail of the UK Test and Trace rules here.

SHOW COMMENTS