United States has become the first country to authorize the use of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for use in children.
The authorities have said that children as young as 12 will start getting vaccine shots from Thursday onwards, blazing new trail in Covid-19 treatment.
President Joe Biden said this move was a promising development in the fight against the virus. He said he has asked states to make the vaccine available for the younger population.
"If you are a parent who wants to protect your child, or a teenager who is interested in getting vaccinated, today's decision is a step closer to that goal," Biden said, according to Reuters.
Earlier this month, reports had said that the US health authorities were preparing to declare Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine safe for children aged between 12 and 18. The drugmaker had said in March that its vaccine was safe and effective in children. It said that clinical trials showed that the vaccine produced robust antibody responses in the adolescent age group. Subsequently, the US Food and Drug Administration gave the authorization for use in children.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said earlier in April that the vaccine could be approved by mid-May.
Why Vaccinate Children?
Children are not known to be widely getting infected with COVID-19. Even if they contract the illness, in most cases, there will only be mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, children getting infected and in turn carrying the virus and passing it on to adults is a possibility.
Moreover, as the US has successfully fought off the second wave of the coronavirus infection, the focus now is on restarting the schools. This won't be easy if the children are outside the ambit of vaccination.
Experts have said vaccinating young children would help the country expand its immune population base.
"I hear from pediatricians and people out in the community, what a godsend this is going to be for the adolescent population who have been restricted in terms of sports activities, drama club and the other sorts of things that naturally we want them to engage in," said Dr. William Gruber, a top vaccine scientist at Pfizer, according to Reuters.
Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson are also testing their vaccines in 12- to 18-year olds, with data from Moderna's trial expected to come soon.