Japan’s health ministry has urged local governments to prepare for the administration of COVID-19 vaccine to children age 5 and 11, expanding inoculations to this age group in February at the earliest, its officials said Wednesday.
While the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare sent the notice dated Tuesday to municipalities, some health experts have expressed concern amid uncertainty over the efficacy and safety of the vaccine in children aged under 12.
U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. and German partner BioNTech SE applied last week for Japanese government approval to inoculate children in the age group with the vaccine they jointly developed.
Pfizer’s vaccine is currently available free of charge only to people age 12 and older in Japan.
In the United States, vaccinations of children age 5 to 11 have begun, following approval by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Data from clinical trials conducted by Pfizer in the United States and other countries show that administration of a third of an adult dose of the vaccine was 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections in children age 5 to 11.
The trials also showed that while the subjects experienced sore arms, fatigue and headaches the next day, the side effects disappeared quickly and there were no safety issues.
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