TOKYO: The Japanese government is set to approve US drug giant Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11, after a health ministry panel endorsed the vaccine on Thursday.
Whether to make it obligatory to make efforts to vaccinate children aged 5-11 against COVID-19 is expected to be discussed later.
The government aims to start inoculating such children as early as March.
In Japan, the daily number of new coronavirus cases has continued to renew its record high in recent days, as the omicron variant of the virus is raging.
Infections are spreading also among unvaccinated young children. Of some 160,000 people confirmed as positive for the virus between Jan. 12 and Tuesday, children below 10 years old accounted for 12,947, or 8 pct.
The Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5-11 is a different product from that for older people, with the amount of a dose for the children is one-third that for older recipients.
A clinical test, conducted on some 2,300 children aged 5-11 last June and later, showed that the vaccine was 90.7 pct effective at preventing COVID-19 symptoms seven days after the second shot.
According to the Japan Pediatric Society, about 97.6 pct of suspected cases of adverse reactions to the vaccine reported in the United States in November and December last year were not serious.
The Japanese government has agreed with Pfizer to additionally receive 120 million vaccine doses, including those for young children.
Imports of doses for such children will start in February, and they are slated to be distributed to local governments in stages from March at the earliest, according to the ministry.
Vaccine rollouts for children aged 5-11 have already begun in some countries abroad. Some including the United States are recommending that all 5- to 11-year-old children be vaccinated against COVID-19, while others are encouraging only those with underlying conditions to get inoculated.