Germany will start offering COVID-19 vaccines to children as young as 12 from June 7, pending a decision by the European drugs regulator, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Thursday.
The European Medicines Agency could approve use of the vaccine developed jointly by German biotech BioNTech
and U.S. drug company Pfizer
for people aged 12 to 15, as soon as Friday, when it is scheduled to hold a news briefing.
“We will be able to make every citizen including children a vaccination offer by the end of the summer,” Merkel told a news briefing after talks with regional leaders, which was reported by Reuters. She stressed that immunization would be voluntary and wouldn’t have an impact on whether children can attend school.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine for 12-to-15 year-olds on May 10. The regulator had already approved use of the vaccine for Americans as young as 16 last year.
Earlier this month, Canada became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine for use in children aged between 12 and 15 years old, which the country’s chief medical adviser said would help support children to “return to a more normal life.”
U.S. biotech Moderna
said this week that its COVID-19 vaccine had performed well in a trial in adolescents, and that the company will request emergency authorization for the vaccine in that age group early next month.
Plans to expand Germany’s vaccination program come as its pace has picked up in recent weeks. More than 40% of the population have now received at least one dose, and about 15% are fully vaccinated, said health minister Jens Spahn.
The number of confirmed coronavirus disease cases in Germany increased by 6,313 in the past week, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases on Thursday. The reported death toll rose by 269 to 87,995, the data showed.