COVID-19 vaccines for children 5-11 may start as early as Feb.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Vials of Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has issued written notices to each prefecture and other organizations to prepare to administer COVID-19 vaccines to children aged 5-11, who could begin receiving their first doses as early as February.

U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. applied to the health ministry for approval on Nov. 10 to have the vaccine, which is currently available to those 12 and older, be given to children aged 5-11.

The health ministry wrote in the notice dated Tuesday that if the Pfizer vaccine is approved for younger children, it should be treated differently from the current COVID-19 vaccine, as it requires a smaller dose.

The health ministry’s expert panel began discussions on Monday whether to have children 5-11 be eligible to receive the vaccine, but nothing has been finalized.

While some committee members said the choice to be vaccinated should be made available, others called for more caution, as children are at a lower risk of developing serious symptoms. One member said, “It is necessary to provide information on the risk of adverse effects.”

In the United States, children aged 5-11 began receiving the Pfizer vaccine on Nov. 3.