On Monday May 10th, Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine was authorised by US health regulators. This special authorization covers children as young as 12 up to 15 to receive the vaccine. The vaccinations could start as early as Thursday to widen the country’s inoculation program, as vaccination rates have slowed significantly.
In the United States, this is the first COVID-19 vaccine health authorities have approved for ages 12 to 15. For getting children back into schools safely, an important step would be to vaccinate the younger children.
Views from Biden
States were asked by US President Joe Biden to immediately have the vaccine ready for younger adolescents.
The authorisation was hailed by Biden as “a promising development in our fight against the virus” in a statement he issued.
He said “If you are a parent who wants to protect your child, or a teenager who is interested in getting vaccinated, today’s decision is a step closer to that goal.“
In the United States, the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is available to people as young as 16 under an emergency use authorisation. For the immunisation in people 16 and older, the vaccine makers said they had begun seeking full approval last week.
An advisory committee of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will consider the expansion on Wednesday. After this, states will likely be able to begin vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds. This is according to Peter Marks, director of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
When contracting COVID-19, most children will only develop mild symptoms or show no symptoms at all. Children can still spread the virus however, and they are not risk-free from becoming seriously ill. There have been outbreaks traced to sporting events and other activities for children in this age range.
The authorization of the vaccine for young teens would protect an age group that is not exempt from severe disease. It would also help the US expand its immune population, according to Dr. William Gruber, a top vaccine scientist at Pfizer.
Gruber said “I hear from pediatricians and people out in the community, what a godsend this is going to be for the adolescent population who have been restricted in terms of sports activities, drama club and the other sorts of things that naturally we want them to engage in.”
Concerns from parents
To end the coronavirus pandemic, vaccines are crucial. One lingering concern surrounding many health officials is that vaccine hesitancy in some adults will be even more pronounced when it comes to their children.
This is due to the low numbers of young kids who have been hit hard by COVID-19. Another fact is the many unknowns about the vaccines’ long-term impact on children’s development. Hence, parents may question the risks versus benefits.
The companies conducted clinical trials on 12 to 15-year-olds in March. The vaccine was able to produce robust antibody responses. It was safe and effective, according to the companies.
Nearly 2,260 adolescents with ages ranging from 12 to 15 took part in the trial. There were 18 cases of COVID-19 in the group that received a placebo. However, there was 100% efficacy in preventing the illness among those vaccinated, according to the companies.
Nearly 46 percent of the US population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The data is from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Slower vaccination rates
The peak of vaccinations was during a seven-day average in mid-April. Data showed daily distribution of more than 3.3 million doses. However, the pace has significantly slowed down since then. CDC data shows the average figure has dropped to around 2.1 million doses a day, i.e., nearly one third of the mid-April figures.
In the United States, 16 and 17-year-olds can only receive Pfizer’s authorized vaccine. Based on CDC data, nearly 2 million teenagers in that age group have received at least one dose. In early April, many states only opened to non-high-risk individuals in that age group.
Vaccinating 12 to 18-year-olds could allow easing up of some current regulations. There is a possibility of relaxing some CDC regulations at US schools and summer camps. These include masking and social distancing measures, with the vaccination of this age group.
Pfizer plans to ask to include a younger age group, i.e., 2 to 11-year-olds, in the emergency authorisation. The company expects to have safety and efficacy data on the vaccine for this age group by September this year.
11th May 2021 23:00
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