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REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

The European Union-wide rollout of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine version for five- to 11-year-old children will begin Dec 13, one week earlier than previously planned, Germany’s health ministry said on Wednesday.

Germany is due to receive 2.4 million doses for use as a two-dose regimen, the ministry said, adding it has commitment on the new date from the manufacturer.

“Given the current pandemic situation, this is good news for parents and children. Many are awaiting this eagerly,” acting health minister Jens Spahn said in the statement.

A BioNTech spokesperson confirmed the earlier launch, adding it was contingent on the production batch passing quality control checks early next week.

The rollout will be brought forward without an impact on agreed delivery volumes thanks to “a massive effort including weekend work” on the part of Pfizer and BioNTech staff, the company added.

The European Union last week approved use of the low-dose vaccine version for five- to 11-year-olds, following authorisation in May to give the standard adult dosage to children 12 years and older.

Coronavirus is spreading faster in Europe than in other world regions, prompting a scramble to encourage non-vaccinated adults to get shots, to get a campaign for third booster doses off the ground and to inoculate children.

Recorded infections among school-age children in Germany have surged and have been about twice as high as the all-age average over the last few weeks.

Frequent testing in classrooms may be bringing more asymptomatic cases to light than in the overall population.

The United States started distributing the paediatric version of the Pfizer shot in early November, followed by Canada in mid-November.

REUTERS