Experts believe vaccinating children of all ages will be critical to stopping the pandemic and helping schools return to normal
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe and 100% effective in children as young as 12, its manufacturers have said.
The two firms have carried out vaccine trials in the US on 12 to 15-year-olds, which they say were successful.
A spokesperson said they will ask the US regulator to approve emergency authorisation of the jab on school pupils next week and hope to roll it out when the new academic year starts in the autumn.
This comes after roughly half all people in the UK now have antibodies against Covid, either through infection or vaccination, says the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Most of this will be through vaccination, with 30 million people in the UK having received at least a single dose of one of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Currently, Pfizer jabs are only rolled out to over-16s in the US.
Experts believe vaccinating children of all ages will be critical to stopping the pandemic – and helping schools return to normal after months of disruption.
In a study of 2,260 US volunteers, preliminary data showed there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared to 18 among those given a placebo.
In the small study that has not yet been published, researchers reported high levels of virus-fighting antibodies which were also found to be higher than in studies of young adults.
Children had side effects similar to young adults – mainly pain, fever, chills and fatigue, particularly after the second dose.
The study will continue to track participants for two years for more information about long-term protection and safety.
The manufacturers plan to ask the US Food and Drug Administration and European regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine starting at the age of 12.
“We share the urgency to expand the use of our vaccine,” Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said in a statement.
Pfizer is not the only company seeking to lower the age limit for its vaccine.
This comes after Boris Johnson has joined over 20 other world leaders in calling for a new global settlement to help the world to prepare for future pandemics. In a newspaper article the leaders, including the German chancellor and French president, said COVID posed the biggest challenge since World War Two.
Results are expected soon from a US study of Moderna’s vaccine in 12 to 17-year-olds.
In a sign that the findings were promising, both manufacturers have already been given permission to start US studies in children aged 11 and younger, working their way to as young as six months.
AstraZeneca last month began a study of its vaccine among six to 17-year-olds in Britain while Johnson & Johnson is planning its own paediatric studies.
In China, Sinovac recently announced it had submitted preliminary data to regulators showing its vaccine is safe in children as young as three.