Italy and France have become the latest countries to open up vaccines for children over the age of 12 with many more European countries due to follow suit after the EU approved the Pfizer jab for use in young people last week - but experts have warned the vaccines could be better used elsewhere.
The approval of the vaccine for all people over the age of 12 by the European Medical Agency on Friday followed similar moves by the US and Canada. The UK has yet to make a similar announcement.
There has been some controversy over the prospect of vaccinating young people.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged rich countries to prioritise unvaccinated adults in low-income countries rather than children in their own nations.
Which EU countries have approved the Pfizer jab for 12-18 year olds?
So far seven EU countries have said they will offer vaccines to 12-year-olds, with most aiming to start the rollout by mid-June.
Hungary has been offering vaccines to 16-year-olds since mid-May but has not announced a date for when this will be lowered to 12-year-olds.
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Italy began rolling out the vaccine to children aged over 12 on Thursday.
France will start vaccinating children from age 12 with Pfizer's vaccine on 15 June, the government said earlier this week as it looks to avoid school closures in September.
Germany and Poland plan to offer the first shot to children aged 12-16 from 7 June.
Lithuania has said it will be offering vaccines to children from age 12 in June.
Estonia has said it will offer vaccines to children from this autumn.
Austria has said it aims to have over 340,000 children aged 12-15 vaccinated by the end of August but no official start date has been announced.
Several non-EU European countries like Switzerland and Norway have said they are considering vaccinating children aged 12 and over.
What about the UK?
Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi when asked about vaccinating children told Sky News: “Some children do get serious Covid and long Covid, but on the whole you’ll be vaccinating to protect families, the community and public health.”
He said it needs to be “unbelievably safe” for children to be vaccinated before stating: “It’s right that we ask (the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) to give us guidance on whether or not to start vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds - the Pfizer vaccine is available to 16 and above - but we’ll wait for both the regulator and JCVI.”
Experts have said deciding whether to give children jabs is a question which requires balancing the wider benefits against the direct ones for youngsters.
Some scientists have warned against vaccinating children, saying it raises complicated ethical issues and the vaccines could be used elsewhere.
Professor Adam Finn of Bristol University told the Guardian: "Children transmit Covid to some extent, although they rarely suffer badly from the disease themselves.
"If you offer them vaccines, then you put them at risk of possible side-effects - so there really needs to be some significant, tangible benefit to them, not just the indirect protection of adults from COVID-19."
What has the WHO said?
The World Health Organization’s top vaccines expert said Thursday that immunising children against COVID-19 is not a high priority.
Dr. Kate O’Brien said children should not be a focus of COVID-19 vaccine rollouts because there was such a shortage of jabs worldwide.
She said: "When we’re in this really difficult place, as we are right now, where the supply of vaccine is insufficient for everybody around the world, immunizing kids is not a high priority right now."
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called for more vaccines to be donated to poorer countries and has called the global inequality of the rollout "grotesque."
Dr O'Brien said there may be a time where it was sensible to vaccinate children but said the priority right now should be on medical professionals and the elderly worldwide.
More than 160.71 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and nearly 3.5 million have died.
Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.
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