THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch government cleared the way Friday for children aged 5-11 to get vaccinated against COVID-19, extending its inoculation program to an age group that had the highest rate of infections in a recent surge.

The program is set to begin in mid-January, the health ministry said. The children will get shots of the Pfizer vaccine with a lower dose than adults and it is up to their parents whether they are vaccinated.

The government stressed that most children infected with the coronavirus develop only mild symptoms, but a small number can become seriously ill.

The European Medicines Agency gave the green light last month for a smaller dose of the Pfizer vaccine to be used for children aged 5-11.

Dutch COVID-19 infections soared to record levels last month, straining the health care system and forcing the government to impose a partial lockdown that means bars, restaurants, cinemas, theaters and shops selling non-essential goods have to close at 5 p.m.

Infections have since slightly declined since the lockdown started but remain high. Admissions to intensive care units also are still high but decreasing.


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