On Wednesday, Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children aged 12 to 15.
It is the first time in Canada that a COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 12 has been approved. The US Food and Drug Administration has yet to make a recommendation about its use in that age group. The FDA is due to issue its decision next week. Currently, the vaccine is only available to adolescents aged 16 and older.
“After completing a thorough and independent scientific review of the evidence, the department has determined that this vaccine is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 when used in children between 12 and 15 years of age,” a statement from Health Canada said.
The three other vaccines approved for use in Canada — made by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna — can only be given to adults 18 and older.
“Health Canada has placed terms and conditions on this authorization requiring Pfizer-BioNTech to continue providing information to Health Canada on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine in this younger age group to ensure its benefits continue to be demonstrated once it is on the market,” Health Canada said.
According to Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser at Health Canada, up to 20% of the COVID-19 cases recorded there have been among people under the age of 19, with some deaths occuring in people as young as 13 years old.
“While younger people are less likely to experience serious cases of COVID-19, having access to a safe and effective vaccine will help to control the disease’s spread to their families and friends — some of whom may be at a higher risk of complications,” Sharma said, according to CBC News. “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.”