The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday recommended using a reduced dosage of the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 years. The vaccine is currently recommended for use among children aged 12 years and above.
The recommendation was issued following a meeting of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) of the WHO on Wednesday, where experts evaluated the vaccine and discussed extending its use to children.
While a dosage of 30 micrograms is used for children above the age of 12, the WHO said that only 10 micrograms should be used for children between the ages of five and 11 years.
The recommendation comes after the WHO found no safety issues associated with the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine among children in the aforementioned age group in clinical trials.
“This age group (5-11) is in the lowest priority use group for vaccination except, for children who have co-morbidities,” said SAGE chairman Alejandro Cravioto at a briefing, highlighting that vulnerable groups still remained the priority.
On that note, the WHO also recommended that booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should be administered to the elderly and healthcare workers four to six months after the administration of the final dose of the two-dose vaccine regimen.
Also read | Omicron BA.2 subtype: All you need to know
SAGE chairman Cravioto went on to say that countries with moderate to high rates of vaccination should prioritise rolling out booster shots to vulnerable sections of the population first before diverting available vaccines for the vaccination of children.
“Increase in booster dose coverage for high risk priority groups will usually yield greater reduction in severe disease and deaths than use of equivalent vaccine to increase primary vaccination coverage,” said Cravioto.
The WHO’s vaccine director, Kate O’Brien, partly echoed Cravioto’s views, saying, “We simply don’t have evidence yet on the need for or the evidence on the performance of boosters (in children below 12 years of age).”