Indonesia authorises Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6-11

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A healthcare worker wearing an Indonesian flag mask to mark the country's 76th Independence Day, prepares a dose of China's Sinovac Biotech vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during a mass vaccination program in Jakarta, Indonesia, August 17, 2021. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

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JAKARTA, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Indonesia has approved the Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6-11, its food and drug agency said on Monday, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval of the Pfizer (PFE.N)/BioNTech (22UAy.DE) vaccine for younger kids.

Until Monday, Indonesia had cleared the Chinese-made Sinovac (SVA.O) vaccine only for people aged 12 and above, of which it has the most amount in its arsenal with over 200 million doses.

Penny K. Lukito, chief of the agency (BPOM), told a news conference that the approval was "pleasant news. We're sure that children's vaccination is an urgent thing, especially now learning has started."

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The approval comes as Indonesia is two months into its trial of in-person learning. Health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said that COVID-19 cases found in schools during this period "are relatively low."

Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a health ministry official, said that vaccinations for children may start early next year, as it awaits further recommendation from Indonesia's paediatric association and more vaccine shots.

Chile and Cambodia have also approved the Sinovac vaccine for younger children.

Indonesia was Asia's COVID-19 epicentre in July, with the Delta variant driving up infections and deaths though both counts have plummeted.

Infections among children aged 0-18 make up for 13% of total cases, government data shows.

Indonesia has vaccinated about 27% of its population of 270 million.

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Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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