S. Korea approves Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for ages 5-11

South Korean health officials on Wednesday approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, expanding the country’s immunization program in the face of a massive omicron outbreak that is driving up hospitalizations and deaths.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported a record 171,452 new virus cases on Wednesday, nearly a 40-fold increase from levels in mid-January when omicron first emerged as the country’s dominant strain. The 99 new deaths were the highest daily tally since Dec. 31, when the country was grappling with a delta-driven surge that buckled hospital systems.

More than 500 virus patients are now in serious or critical condition, up from around 200 in mid-February.

In a long-awaited announcement, the Ministry of Drug and Food Safety said it approved the Pfizer vaccine as the country’s first shot to be used for children aged 5 to 11. The KDCA didn’t immediately say when vaccinations for this age group would begin.

The Pfizer shot is already used for children aged 5 to 11 in more than 60 countries, including the United States and in the European Union, the MDFS said in a press release. The vaccine will help protect younger children from infections or serious illness amid South Korea’s fast-developing omicron surge, it added.

Teenagers and younger children have been linked to a rising number of infections in recent weeks, according to KDCA data, a worrisome development as schools prepare for new semesters in March.

The country…

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