2021-06-08 08:35:39

China has approved a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use among children and adolescents, days after a senior government official suggested the country was considering such a move.

An unnamed official from China’s COVID-19 vaccine development task force told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) Sunday that the inoculation drive will include children aged 3 to 17, and the vaccines will be administered from eldest to youngest. However, it’s unclear which of the five approved shots has been greenlighted for use among children and teens.

The approval would make China the only country to vaccinate children under 12, though it’s unclear when the inoculations will start. Several countries, including Canada, the United States, and Chile, have approved the use of COVID-19 vaccines for adolescents in recent months.

Last week, chairman of Beijing-based pharmaceutical company Sinovac told CCTV that their COVID-19 vaccine had received government approval for use among 3- to 17-year-olds. China’s drug regulator, however, hasn’t made any such announcements yet.

Sinovac has conducted a small-scale human trial of its COVID-19 vaccine in minors, involving about 500 participants between the ages of 3 and 17. The study, published as a preprint yet to be vetted by independent experts, has shown the vaccine to be safe and able to elicit an immune response in recipients.

But the shot’s effectiveness, usually determined in large-scale human studies involving thousands of volunteers, remained unclear.

Research shows children are less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19. However, including that demographic in the vaccination program could raise the country’s currently low vaccine coverage, as the group accounts for a sizable share of China’s population.

As of Tuesday, China had administered over 790 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but under 20% of residents are said to be fully vaccinated.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: People Visual)