Spain plans to start vaccinating children between 12 and 17 years old around two weeks before the academic year starts in September, the health minister said on Friday, as the country neared a milestone of fully inoculating 10 million people.
It comes as the UK also approved the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use in children aged 12 to 15.
Last week, the European Commission authorised Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine to be used in children as young as 12 but left decisions on when to roll out the shots up to member states.
Germany announced plans to begin vaccinating youngsters from June 7th, while Italy said it would soon extend its campaign to include children.
Unlike those two countries, which have opened up vaccines to all adults, Spain is progressively working its way through age groups and is now focusing on people aged 50-59, with some regions making a start on 40-49 year olds.
Spain on track
"The idea we have is...that before the start of the school year approximately ... two weeks before, to be able to start this inoculation of our adolescent boys and girls," Health Minister Carolina Darias told state broadcaster RTVE.
The proposal must be ratified by her ministry's public health commission.
Ms Darias said more than 10 million people - just over a fifth of the population - should be fully vaccinated by Friday evening and authorities were on track to meet a target of immunising 70 per cent of the population by mid-August.
With nationwide infections at 118 cases per 100,000 people, roughly half from the beginning of May, and most vulnerable groups vaccinated, Spain plans to reopen nightclubs in low-risk areas.
It also plans to reopen to international tourism on Monday, letting in leisure travellers from any country as long as they have received a full course of a World Health Organisation-approved vaccine two weeks before arrival.
Meanwhile in the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) authorised the use of the Pfizer jab in the younger age group on Friday following a review of its safety, quality and effectiveness.
MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: “We have carefully reviewed clinical trial data in children aged 12 to 15 years and have concluded that the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective in this age group and that the benefits of this vaccine outweigh any risk.
“We have in place a comprehensive safety surveillance strategy for monitoring the safety of all UK-approved Covid-19 vaccines and this surveillance will include the 12- to 15-year age group.
“No extension to an authorisation would be approved unless the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been met.
“It will now be for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to advise on whether this age group will be vaccinated as part of the deployment programme.”
A UK Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The government has asked the independent experts at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to advise whether routine vaccination should be offered to younger people aged 12 to 17.
“We will be guided by the expert advisers and will update in due course.”
More than 2,000 children aged 12 to 15 were studied as part of the randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trials.
There were no cases of the virus from seven days after the second dose in the vaccinated group, compared with 16 cases in the placebo group.
In addition, data on neutralising antibodies showed the vaccine working at the same level as seen in adults aged 16-25.
No new side-effects were identified and the safety data in children was comparable with that seen in young adults.
As in young adults, the majority of adverse events were mild to moderate and related to reactogenicity, such as a sore arm or tiredness.