Canada becomes first country to approve Pfizer jab for children aged 12-15

5 May 2021, 16:48 | Updated: 5 May 2021, 17:23

Canada has approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in children aged between 12 and 15
Canada has approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in children aged between 12 and 15. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Canada has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer vaccine for use in children aged between 12 and 15 years old.

The Canadian government's chief medical adviser, Dr Supriya Sharma, said the decision would help children return to a normal life.

Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine was previously authorised for people aged 16 or older.

The US Food and Drug Administration is also expected to approve the drug for young people by next week, setting up jabs for many before the beginning of the next school year.

It comes nearly a month after the pharmaceutical company found that its jab also provided protection for the younger age group.

In March, Pfizer released preliminary results from a vaccine study of 2,260 US volunteers aged 12 to 15 showing there were no cases of Covid-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared with 18 among those given dummy jabs.

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Dr Sharma said the evidence shows the vaccine is safe and effective in that age group. It is the first vaccine approved for children in Canada.

About one-fifth of all cases of Covid-19 in Canada have occurred in children and teenagers, she added, and having a vaccine for them is a critical part of the country's plan.

The Health Canda chief said that while most children do not experience serious illness from Covid-19, a vaccine also helps protect friends and family who may be at higher risk of complications.

"It will also support the return to a more normal life for our children, who have had such a hard time over the past year,'' she said.

Children who were studied had side effects similar to young adults, the company said, mainly pain, fever, chills and fatigue, particularly after the second dose.

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The study will continue to track participants for two years for more information about long-term protection and safety.

"Today's expansion of our authorisation represents a significant step forward in helping the Canadian government broaden its vaccination programme and begin to help protect adolescents before the start of the next school year," Fabien Paquette, vaccines lead for Pfizer Canada, said in a statement.

Health Canada said it will require Pfizer-BioNTech to continue providing information to it on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine in this younger age group to ensure its benefits.

Vaccinations have increased in Canada in recent months and the government expects to receive at least 10 million vaccines this month. More than 34 per cent of Canadians have received at least one dose.

"It's fantastic and unsurprising," Dr Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto and the medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Programme at Sinai-University Health Network, said.

"We need to get as many people as possible vaccinated as soon as possible. We know older kids are higher transmitters than younger, so this will help everyone."