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UPDATE 2-Britain approves Moderna's COVID shot for 6-11 year-olds

* UK's MHRA extends use of Spikevax to include younger children

* UK's JCVI to decide on use of vaccine in immunisation programme

* Worldwide cases cross 500 mln - Reuters tally (Adds background)

By Pushkala Aripaka

April 14 (Reuters) - Britain's medicines regulator on Thursday approved the use of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine in children between six and 11 years, as the country bolsters itself for fighting coronavirus infections amid the spread of new virus variants.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said https://www.gov.uk/government/news/mhra-approves-the-moderna-covid-19-vaccine-spikevax-for-use-in-6-to-11-year-olds the approval was granted after Moderna's vaccine, known as Spikevax, met the required standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

While most children develop mild or no symptoms with COVID-19, they could still spread the virus and some remain at risk of becoming seriously ill as new, highly contagious variants such as Omicron and its sub-variants are driving up cases.

A Reuters tally https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/worldwide-covid-cases-surpass-500-mln-omicron-variant-ba2-surges-2022-04-14 showed worldwide cases surpassed 500 million.

However, official data on Thursday showed https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/englands-covid-19-prevalence-dips-slightly-record-high-2022-04-14 that COVID-19 prevalence in England fell to 1 in 14 people in the week ending April 9, compared with a record high of 1 in 13 recorded in the previous two weeks.

Spikevax was already approved in Britain for those over 12 years, and the extension to include younger children comes hours after the regulator approved French firm Valneva's easy-to-store COVID-19 vaccine for adults up to 50 years of age.

MHRA chief June Raine said in a statement it would be up to Britain's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to advise on whether Moderna's vaccine will be offered to the younger group as part of the country's immunisation programme.

Moderna last year said its two-dose vaccine, based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, generated virus-neutralizing antibodies in children aged six to 11 years and safety was comparable to that seen in trials of adolescents and adults.

Last month, the U.S.-based drugmaker said it would seek authorisation of Spikevax in children younger than 6 years old based on data showing it generated a similar immune response to adults in Moderna's clinical trial when Omicron was predominant. (Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and David Evans)