PARIS – France will start vaccinating teenagers from age 12 with the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine on June 15, the government said on Wednesday in a move to help avoid closures of schools in September due to COVID-19 risks.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in France meanwhile held below 10,000 for the second day in a row and the daily death toll dropped sharply from last week, further easing pressure on hospitals as the vaccination campaign has expanded.
France, which began vaccinations late last year with priority given to care home residents, has gradually been widening eligibility by lowering age thresholds and removing conditions such as profession or state of health. From May 31, COVID-19 vaccines were made available to everyone over 18.
President Emmanuel Macron told reporters earlier on Wednesday that from June 15, young people aged 12 to 18 will be allowed to get a COVID-19 vaccine from June 15.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said teenagers would be given the Pfizer shot and these would be administered in large vaccination centres on a voluntary basis, requiring parental consent.
“This will help us boost collective immunity and allow us to avoid the closure of classes and schools in September, as well as protect adolescents who can also sometimes develop COVID symptoms,” he said in an interview with TF1 television.
He said six million adolescents had already been inoculated in the United States and that Israel and Germany were set to vaccinate this age group as well.
“In the fight against epidemics it is quite normal to vaccinate adolescents and we have the green light for that from European and French health authorities,” Veran said.
The European Commission on Friday authorized Pfizer and partner BioNTech SE’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in children as young as 12, paving the way for a broader rollout in the 27-nation bloc after similar clearances in the United States and Canada.
The French health ministry reported 8,743 new cases on Wednesday, down from 9,848 on Tuesday. It was the first time since September that new cases were below 10,000 two days running on days not following a weekend or bank holiday. There were 96 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals on Wednesday, compared with 144 last Wednesday.
The total number of COVID-19 deaths in France now stands at 109,758, and the total number of cases at 5.68 million.