The European Medicines Agency has recommended that the use of the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech be expanded to children aged 12 to 15, a decision that offers younger and less at-risk populations across the continent access to a COVID-19 shot for the first time during the pandemic.
The recommendation on Friday follows similar decisions by regulators in Canada and the U.S. last month, as rich countries slowly approach their vaccination targets for adults and look to immunize as many people as possible.
The EMA’s recommendation that the vaccine’s authorization be expanded to children was based on a study in more than 2,000 adolescents in the U.S. that showed the vaccine was safe and effective. Researchers will continue to monitor the shots long-term protection and safety in the children for another two years.
Most COVID-19 vaccines worldwide have been authorized for adults, who are at higher risk of severe disease and death from the coronavirus. But vaccinating children of all ages could be critical to stopping outbreaks, since some research has shown older children may play a role in spreading the virus even though they dont typically fall seriously ill.