In a major boost to the global fight against Covid-19, vaccine makers BioNTech and Pfizer on Wednesday announced that clinical trial data of their Covid-19 vaccine show it is 100 per cent effective on children aged 12-15 years.
This is the first Covid-19 vaccine in the world that has reported 100 per cent efficacy on children. The results of the clinical trials are likely to result in countries starting vaccinating children soon.
So far, the global Covid-19 vaccination drive has primarily concentrated on vaccinating adults in absence of reliable efficacy data of vaccines among children and older teens.
In a report, news agency The Associated Press said in the coming weeks, Pfizer would ask US health regulators to expand use of its vaccine shots to 12- to 15-year-olds.
Currently, Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is authorised only for people aged 16 years and above. However, vaccinating children of all ages will be critical to stopping the pandemic.
Vaccinating children can also be a step that may help countries return towards normalcy with resumption of classes. World over, students have suffered on account of the pandemic and classes have been disrupted for almost a year now.
How many children participated in trials?
To test efficacy of their Covid-19 vaccine, Pfizer and BioNtech conducted a study involving 2,260 volunteers in the US. They were all aged between 12 and 15 years.
Releasing the study data, Pfizer said preliminary data showed there were no cases of Covid-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared to 18 among those given dummy shots.
It’s a small study, that hasn’t yet been published, so another important piece of evidence is how well the shots revved up the kids’ immune systems.
Researchers reported high levels of virus-fighting antibodies, somewhat higher than were seen in studies of young adults.
Were there any side effects?
Pfizer said kids participating in the trials had side effects similar to young adults.
The main side effects are pain, fever, chills and fatigue, particularly after the second dose.
The study will continue to track participants for two years for more information about long-term protection and safety.
“We share the urgency to expand the use of our vaccine,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. He expressed “the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year” in the United States.
Others vaccines too in the race
Pfizer isn’t the only company seeking to lower the age limit for its vaccine. Results are also expected soon from a US study of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine in 12- to 17-year-olds.
But in a sign that the findings were promising, the FDA already allowed both companies to begin US studies in children 11 and younger, working their way to as young as 6-month-old.
AstraZeneca last month began a study of its Covid-19 vaccine among 6- to 17-year-olds in Britain.
Johnson & Johnson is planning its own pediatric studies.
In China, Sinovac recently announced it has submitted preliminary data to Chinese regulators showing its vaccine is safe in children as young as 3.