On 5 May 2021, Canada became the first country in the world to approve COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children aged 12–15 years. After that, the US Food and Drug Administration and European Medicines Agency also approved the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for adolescents from 12 years of age. There are ongoing studies in children younger than 12 years of age aiming to assess the safety and immunogenicity of COVID-19 vaccines and the optimal dosage/schedule.
Currently mRNA COVID-19 vaccines can be administered safely and efficaciously in adolescents from 12 years of age. WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) has concluded that the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are suitable for use by people aged 12 and above. Children aged between 12 and 15 who are at high risk may be offered this vaccine alongside other priority groups for vaccination.
While children are less likely to suffer from the direct impact of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality compared with other age groups, they do have a small risk of developing severe illness and complications from COVID-19. More evidence on the short and long term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection in children as well as the safety profile of vaccines in children and the contribution of vaccination of children to disease transmission control is needed to fully understand the benefits and risks of vaccinating children. In the meantime, vaccination of healthy children should not change the prioritization of well established high-risk groups, anywhere in the world.
- Children aged 12 to 15 who are at high risk may be offered mRNA COVID-19 vaccines alongside other priority groups for vaccination.
- More evidence on the effects of SARS CoV-2 infection in children as well as the safety profile of vaccines in children are needed to fully understand the benefits and risks of vaccinating children.