Children aged 5-11 are now eligible for voluntary COVID-19 vaccination in Belgium and France, authorities in both countries announced on Monday.
A rollout of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine expected to start in late December for kids with comorbidities, a statement from Belgium’s Interministerial Conference on Public Health (CIM) said.
“This vaccination will be carried out with a paediatric version of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which is administered in two doses injected 21 days apart. This vaccine has been approved by the European Medicines Agency”, read the statement.
76 percent of Belgium’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the government official data, with the youngest age group, between 12 and 15 years old, at 72 percent.
Later on Monday, the French National Authority for Health (HAS) also recommended extending vaccination for all children aged 5-11, meaning the government should announce a similar move on Wednesday. Previously, HAS had allowed vaccination for children with health issues, and the government had signaled it was waiting for this recommendation to open slots for all children.
A spokesperson from the HAS underlined that even though severe forms of COVID-19 are rare among children, “we have observed that 80% of children with severe forms had no comorbidities”. Vaccinating children “could diminish the virus’s circulation in schools and reduce the risk of classroom closures,” she added.
In both countries, vaccination will be free and voluntary for this age group, who can only get jabbed with their parents’ consent. Kids won’t be subject to restrictions related to their vaccination status and won’t have to have a COVID-19 pass.
Other European countries such as Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece and Hungary have already started vaccinating children aged 5-11 against COVID-19 in a bid to stem the spread of the pandemic while keeping schools open.
This article was updated.