The European Medicines Agency has approved use of Moderna’s Covid vaccine for children aged between 12 and 17.
It is the second Covid jab to be approved for adolescents by the EU’s medicines authority – in May, the Pfizer-BioNTech one got the go-ahead.
The US-made Moderna jab requires two doses, four weeks apart, the EMA says.
The European Commission is expected to widen vaccination with Moderna to young people now, based on the EMA’s recommendation.
But the move is likely to have its critics, as the vaccination rate in most of Asia and Africa – where millions of adults risk serious illness or death from Covid – is far lower than in the EU, where more than half of adults are now fully vaccinated.
The World Health Organization has urged wealthy countries to spread vaccines much more widely globally.
However, supporters argue widening vaccination to children is important now that the highly infectious Delta variant is widespread in Europe and cases are rising sharply in some areas. Children also have to be included if the goal of herd immunity is to be reached – that is, when a high level of vaccination slows the virus’s spread in the population.
Most children do not get seriously ill from Covid, but they are still at risk and can pass it on.
The EMA says a study with the Moderna jab, involving 3,732 children aged 12 to 17, found responses similar to those in young adults aged 18 to 25.
In that study, none of those who received the vaccine developed Covid-19, whereas four given a dummy vaccine did get Covid symptoms.
The study’s small size meant uncommon side-effects, such as the risk of heart inflammation, could not be assessed among the 12-17 age group. But the EMA judges that the benefits of vaccination with the Moderna jab outweigh any risks.
The vaccine, called Spikevax, is already being given to adults in the EU. Like the Pfizer jab it contains RNA, a molecule that triggers new antibodies so that the body is trained to attack any real Covid infection.
Spikevax is also being given to adults in the US and Canada, and Moderna is seeking authorisation there to administer it to adolescents too.