The Health Ministry of Japan approved the use of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines to inoculate children aged 5 to 11 on Friday, as the country continues to grapple with an escalating number of new cases.
The vaccine rollout for 8 million eligible children in this age group will begin in March, according to informed sources, after its approval was expedited by the Ministry, making it the country’s first jab to become available to this age group, according to Xinhua news agency.
The vaccine, developed by the US pharmaceutical giant and its German partner BioNTech SE, is currently available to Japanese residents aged 12 and up.
“We’d like to carefully explain the safety of the vaccine and start inoculation as soon as possible to those who wish to receive it,” Noriko Horiuchi, minister in charge of promoting vaccine rollouts, told a press briefing.
“It is a big thing to have an inoculation option when some children are infected with the Omicron strain,” she added.
Horiuchi’s remarks came as some parents expressed concerns about potential side effects of vaccinating their children.
Meanwhile, some health experts are debating whether children this young should be vaccinated because they are unlikely to develop serious symptoms if they contract the virus.
According to officials from a Ministry panel, vaccine doses for children aged 5 to 11 contain one-third of the adult dose, with the active ingredients remaining the same, despite the fact that the jab has been specially formulated for children.
While its efficacy against the highly transmissible Omicron variant has yet to be confirmed, clinical trials conducted by Pfizer in the United States and other countries for the vaccination of this age group revealed that it was more than 90.7% effective in preventing Covid-19.