Britain’s drug regulator on Friday endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in 12- to 15-year-olds, as the country reported its highest rate of coronavirus cases since late March.
A final decision on including young people in the country’s inoculation campaign now rests with a government advisory committee, but with Britain expanding vaccine eligibility only gradually — shots are now authorized for those age 30 and older — it could be weeks or months before 12- to 15-year-olds will be able to get vaccinated.
The United States and the European Union cleared the way for use of the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds last month. The United States began vaccinating adolescents last month, and Germany said it would begin next week.
Britain has engineered one of the world’s fastest vaccine rollouts, with more than 75 percent of adults having received at least one dose, and half having been fully vaccinated, according to public data.
Yet the pace of vaccinations has slowed in recent months, and Britain now trails several European countries in the number of daily doses administered.
June Raine, the chief executive of Britain’s drug regulator, said on Friday that clinical trial data for 12- to 15-year-olds showed that the Pfizer vaccine was safe and effective, and that “the benefits of this vaccine outweigh any risk.”
The regulator’s decision came as Britain faces a surge of reported cases driven by the variant first detected in India, now known as Delta. More than 6,200 cases reported nationwide on Friday, according to public data, up from 3,400 a week earlier. Deaths have remained low — 11 fatalities were reported on Friday — but are increasing from the single-digit numbers of recent weeks.
Several European countries have banned most travel from Britain, and experts have urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to delay the lifting of almost all restrictions scheduled for June 21. This week, Mr. Johnson said: “I don’t see anything currently in the data to suggest that we have to deviate from the road map, but we may need to wait.”
Several outbreaks have been reported in British schools in recent weeks, but the country’s health authorities said on Thursday that they were not a source of major concern.
“Infection and outbreak trends in schools have remained consistent with the expectations of public health and education experts and in line with what is happening nationally,” Public Health England said in a statement.