By Fabian Cambero
SANTIAGO (Reuters) - The Chilean health regulator on Monday approved the COVID-19 vaccine produced by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd for use in children over 6 years of age, allowing more people to be included in the country's rapid inoculation campaign.
The South American country has already approved the use of the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech vaccine for children over 12, with 654,053 receiving at least one dose since May.
Sinovac's CoronaVac has formed the backbone, however, of Chile's vaccination campaign, which has seen more than 13 million of the country's 19 million inhabitants fully inoculated so far and 19.49 million CoronaVac doses issued in total.
"This is great news for school-age children and those that were not included in previous vaccination plans," said Health Minister Enrique Paris.
Five of the experts on the evaluation panel convened by the Institute of Public Health (ISP) voted in favor of applying the shot to children over 6, while two voted in favor of issuing it only to those over 12, and one voted against issuing it to children.
CoronaVac also has emergency approval for use in children in Indonesia and China.
Chile has seen in recent weeks a noticeable drop in infections, recording just 435 new cases on Monday. It has had a total of 1.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 37,108 deaths.
(Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Aislinn Laing)