European medicines watchdog approves COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11

The European Medicines Agency approves Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for children between 5 and 11 • Children will receive two injections at a lower dose, three weeks apart

Children aged 5 to 11 will be able to receive the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine
Children aged 5 to 11 will be able to receive the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine

The European Medicines Agency has authorised the use of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine among children aged between 5 and 11.

The vaccine, known by its trade name Comirnaty, will be given in two injections three weeks apart but at a lower dose.

The Pfizer vaccine is already authorised for use in people aged 12 and above and has been a mainstay of Malta's vaccination programme.

"The efficacy of Comirnaty was calculated in almost 2,000 children from 5 to 11 years of age who had no sign of previous infection," EMA said in a statement on Thursday. The watchdog recommended a lower dose for this age group.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Chris Fearne confirmed that the health authorities were in a position to start delivering the vaccine to children from mid-December.

EMA said the most common side effects in children aged 5 to 11 are similar to those in people aged 12 and above.

They include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, redness and swelling at the site of injection, muscle pain and chills. These effects are usually mild or moderate and improve within a few days of vaccination.

The rollout of the vaccine among children will help curb the spread of the infection in schools at a time when cases within the community are increasing.