The UK’s drugs authority approved the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccination in children aged six to eleven years old on Thursday, as the country prepares to combat coronavirus infections in the face of the proliferation of new virus strains.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the approval was granted after Moderna’s vaccine, known as Spikevax, met the required standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

While most children develop mild or no symptoms with COVID-19, they could still spread the virus and some remain at risk of becoming seriously ill as new, highly contagious variants such as Omicron and its sub-variants are driving up cases.

 

However, official data on Thursday showed that COVID-19 prevalence in England fell to 1 in 14 people in the week ending April 9, compared with a record high of 1 in 13 recorded in the previous two weeks.

Spikevax was already approved in Britain for those over 12 years, and the extension to include younger children comes hours after the regulator approved French firm Valneva’s easy-to-store COVID-19 vaccine for adults up to 50 years of age.

MHRA chief June Raine said in a statement it would be up to Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to advise on whether Moderna’s vaccine will be offered to the younger group as part of the country’s immunisation programme.

Moderna last year said its two-dose vaccine, based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, generated virus-neutralizing antibodies in children aged six to 11 years and safety was comparable to that seen in trials of adolescents and adults.

Last month, the U.S.-based drugmaker said it would seek authorisation of Spikevax in children younger than 6 years old based on data showing it generated a similar immune response to adults in Moderna’s clinical trial when Omicron was predominant.