The Moderna Covid-19 vaccine has been approved in the UK for use in children aged 12 to 17, a regulator said on Tuesday.
Its approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) means the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will advise the government on whether all children in this age group should receive the shot.
JCVI has already recommended that those aged 16 and 17 should receive a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine before schools and colleges resume next month.
Children aged 12 and over have also been approved for vaccination if their general health means they are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 or if they live with anyone whose immune system is suppressed.
“I am pleased to confirm that the Covid-19 vaccine made by Moderna has now been authorised in 12 to 17-year-olds. The vaccine is safe and effective in this age group,” said MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine.
“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 17-year age group,” she said.
“It is for the JCVI to advise on whether this age group should be vaccinated with the Covid-19 vaccine made by Moderna as part of the deployment programme.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said about 1.4 million teenagers are in line to receive “vital protection” this month before the start of the next academic year.
The Department of Health and Social Care is sending 100,000 text messages to teenagers who will turn 18 within three months, inviting them to book vaccine appointments.
“We welcome the news that Moderna’s vaccine has been approved as safe and effective for people aged 12 and over,” a DHSC representative said.
“As has been the case with all other approvals, we will now be guided by the independent JCVI and have asked for its formal recommendation on whether to administer this vaccine to people aged 12 to 17.”
The findings of a study of English schools published last week suggest Covid infection rates remain low.
The Schools Infection Survey found that 0.27 per cent of primary-level pupils tested positive for coronavirus, while the positivity rate for secondary school pupils was 0.42 per cent.
The figures are considerably lower than in November and December last year, when authorities discovered a positivity rate close to or above 1 per cent.