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The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Thursday approved the use of the Pfizer Covid vaccine on children aged 5 to 11, marking the first time the EU regulator has approved a Covid vaccine for use in young people children.

In a statement released by the EMA, the medicines regulator said it had “Recommended the granting of an extension of indication for [Pfizer] Comirnaty Covid-19 vaccine to include use in children aged five to 11 years. “

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This is the first time the EU regulator has given the green light to a Covid hit for this age group, allowing governments across Europe to start vaccinating millions of schoolchildren, as nations are seeking to limit the impact of a new wave of infections on the continent.

Before the EMA’s decision, several countries had already asked their national drug regulatory authorities to consider giving the Pfizer vaccine to children as young as five years old. French Health Minister Olivier Veran asked the national medical ethics committee to consider expanding the deployment, while Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin opposed the country’s advisory committee, saying the government is ready and waiting to immunize the children.

The EMA’s move comes after Pfizer and BioNTech submitted a request to the EMA to extend delivery of its mRNA jab to young children, after conducting a study in September that showed a strong immune response in 5 to 11 years old.

While some countries have waited for EMA approval and a decision from their national regulator, Austria has already started inoculating young children amid a spike in Covid cases that has forced the country to return to a national lockdown .

The possibility of deploying the Pfizer vaccine in young children follows a warning from the World Health Organization (WHO) that more than 2 million people could die from Covid across Europe during the winter.

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