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MADRID (AP) — Spain’s health ministry gave the go-ahead Tuesday for children between ages 5 and 11 to be vaccinated against COVID-19 amid a rise in coronavirus infections in recent weeks.

The Spanish health ministry tweeted news of the approval, following the decision of an expert committee. The rollout is due to begin Dec. 15, two days after the first of 3.2 million child vaccines arrive in Spain.

Austria has been inoculating children since the European Union’s drug regulator on Nov. 25 authorized Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for use on that age group. Greece will also begin on Dec. 15 and Italy will start on Dec. 16, among others.

The European Medicines Agency’s decision opened the way for jabs to be administered to millions of elementary school pupils across the continent.

Portugal, Spain’s neighbor on the Iberian Peninsula, is expected to follow suit, with pediatric jabs due to arrive there in two weeks’ time. Portuguese officials say more than 90% of the 12-17 age group have received jabs.

Both Iberian countries have high vaccine uptakes, with close to 90% of people eligible for the jabs receiving them. While the two countries’ new daily infections have risen in recent weeks, neither is feeling a strain on hospitals.

The WHO’s Europe director, Hans Kluge, said Tuesday that “it is not unusual today to see two-to-three times higher incidence among young children than in the rest of the population.”

Apart from helping prevent infections among the rest of their family, vaccinating children can help avoid further school closures and home learning, Kluge said in a statement.


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