The health ministry formally issued fast-track approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Friday for children age 5 to 11, with the government preparing to kick-start the rollout in March, as the omicron variant raises fresh concerns about how COVID-19 affects children.

This marks the first authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine for children in Japan under 12, and the move comes a day after a health ministry panel of experts agreed with lowering the age restriction for receiving the Pfizer shot, bringing it down from 12 years of age. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reiterated last week that his administration will act swiftly to make the vaccine available to the 7.2 million children — about 6% of the population — that are in that age group.

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