May 5 (UPI) -- Health Canada on Wednesday authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children ages 12 to 15.
It is the first time a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved in Canada for children as young as 12. A decision on its use for that age group is pending by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is expected to make its ruling next week. The vaccine is currently available for teenagers 16 and up.
"After completing a thorough and independent scientific review of the evidence, the department has determined that this vaccine is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 when used in children between 12 and 15 years of age," a statement from Health Canada said.
The three other vaccines approved for use in Canada -- made by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna -- can only be given to adults 18 and older.
"Health Canada has placed terms and conditions on this authorization requiring Pfizer-BioNTech to continue providing information to Health Canada on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine in this younger age group to ensure its benefits continue to be demonstrated once it is on the market," Health Canada said.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser at Health Canada, said up to 20% of the COVID-19 cases reported there have been among people under 19, with some deaths occurring in people as young as 13.
"While younger people are less likely to experience serious cases of COVID-19, having access to a safe and effective vaccine will help to control the disease's spread to their families and friends -- some of whom may be at a higher risk of complications," Sharma said, according to CBC News. "It will also support the return to a more normal life for our children, who have had such a hard time over the past year."