July 25, (THEWILL) – The European Medicines Agency has approved use of Moderna’s Covid vaccine for children aged between 12 and 17. It is the second Covid jab to be approved for adolescents by the EU’s medicines authority. In May, the Pfizer-BioNTech one got the go-ahead.
The US-made Moderna jab requires two doses, four weeks apart, the EMA says. The European Commission is expected to widen vaccination with Moderna to young people now, based on the EMA’s recommendation.
But the move is likely to have its critics, as the vaccination rate in most of Asia and Africa – where millions of adults risk serious illness or death from Covid – is far lower than in the EU, where more than half of adults are now fully vaccinated.
The World Health Organization has urged wealthy countries to spread vaccines much more widely globally.
However, supporters argue widening vaccination to children is important now that the highly infectious Delta variant is widespread in Europe and cases are rising sharply in some areas. Children also have to be included if the goal of herd immunity is to be reached – that is, when a high level of vaccination slows the virus’s spread in the population.
Most children do not get seriously ill from Covid, but they are still at risk and can pass it on. The EMA says a study with the Moderna jab, involving 3,732 children aged 12 to 17, found responses similar to those in young adults aged 18 to 25.
In that study, none of those who received the vaccine got Covid-19, whereas four given a dummy vaccine did get Covid symptoms.
The study’s small size meant uncommon side-effects, such as the risk of heart inflammation, could not be assessed among the 12-17 age group. But the EMA judges that the benefits of vaccination with the Moderna jab outweigh any risks.
Chinese President Visits Tibet, First in 30 Years
President Xi Jinping has visited the politically troubled region of Tibet in the first official visit by a Chinese leader in 30 years. The president was in Tibet from Wednesday to Friday, but state media reported the visit after it ended. China is accused of suppressing cultural and religious freedom in the remote and mainly Buddhist region.
The government denies the accusations and says Tibet has developed considerably under its rule. In footage released by state broadcaster CCTV, Mr Xi was seen leaving his plane and greeting a crowd wearing ethnic costumes and waving the Chinese flag. He arrived in the south-east of the country before travelling to the capital Lhasa on the high-altitude railway.
While in Lhasa, Mr Xi visited the Potala Palace, the traditional home of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. People in the city had “reported unusual activities and monitoring of their movement” ahead of his visit, advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet said on Thursday.
Mr Xi last visited the region 10 years ago as vice-president. The last sitting Chinese leader to officially visit Tibet was Jiang Zemin in 1990. State media said Mr Xi took time to learn about the work being done on ethnic and religious affairs and the work done to protect Tibetan culture.
Many exiled Tibetans accuse Beijing of religious repression and eroding their culture. As a result, there have been a number of protests including self-immolations, making the topic of Tibet very sensitive to Beijing.