NEW DELHI : Japan’s Health Ministry on Friday approved the use of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines to inoculate children aged between 5 and 11 as the nation continues to grapple with surging numbers of new cases. The vaccine rollout for 8 million eligible children in this age group will start in March, informed sources said after its approval was fast-tracked by the Ministry, making it the first jab to become available to this age group in the country, reports Xinhua news agency. The vaccine, developed by the US pharmaceutical giant and its German partner BioNTech SE, at the moment is available to those in Japan aged 12 and over. “We’d like to carefully explain the safety of the vaccine and start inoculation as soon as possible to those who wish to receive it,” Noriko Horiuchi, minister in charge of promoting vaccine rollouts, told a press briefing. “It is a big thing to have an inoculation option when some children are infected with the Omicron strain,” she added. Horiuchi’s comments came as some parents have voiced concerns about possible side effects if they were to vaccinate their children. Debate, meanwhile, continues among some health experts as to whether children so young need to be vaccinated as they are unlikely to develop serious symptoms if they do contract the virus. Officials from a Ministry panel said the vaccine doses for those aged 5 to 11 contain one-third of the adult dose, with the active ingredients being the same, although the jab has been specially formulated for children. While its effectiveness against the highly-transmissible Omicron variant cannot yet be verified, clinical trials held by Pfizer in the US and other countries for the vaccination of this age group showed that it was more than 90.7 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19.