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Pfizer-BioNTech data shows Covid-19 vaccine safe and protective in children

20 September 2021 - 15:19 By Michael Erman
Pfizer and BioNTech say their Covid-19 vaccine has shown positive and safe results in trials with children aged five to 11. Stock photo.
Pfizer and BioNTech say their Covid-19 vaccine has shown positive and safe results in trials with children aged five to 11. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said on Monday their Covid-19 vaccine induced a robust immune response in five to 11-year-olds, and they plan to ask for authorisation to use the vaccine in children in that age range in the US, Europe and elsewhere as soon as possible.

The companies said the vaccine generated an immune response in the five- to 11-year-olds in their phase 2 and 3 clinical trial that matched what they had previously observed in 16 to 25-year-olds. The safety profile was generally comparable to the older age group, they said.

“Since July, paediatric cases of Covid-19 have risen by about 240% in the US, underscoring the public health need for vaccination,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a news release.

“These trial results provide a strong foundation for seeking authorisation of our vaccine for children five to 11 years old, and we plan to submit them to the FDA and other regulators with urgency.”

Top US health officials believe regulators could make a decision on whether the shot is safe and effective in younger children within three weeks of the companies submitting a request for authorisation, two sources told Reuters earlier this month.

Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths have surged in the US in recent months due to the highly contagious Delta variant. Pediatric cases are also up, particularly as children under 12 are all unvaccinated, but there is no indication that, beyond being more transmissive, the Delta virus is more dangerous in children.

A rapid authorisation could help mitigate a potential surge of cases in autumn, especially with US schools already open nationwide.

The companies' vaccine, called Comirnaty, is already authorised for use in children as young as 12 in many countries, including the US. The vaccine was originally authorised for emergency use in people 16 or older in the US in December 2020 and received full US approval in that age group last month.

The five to 11-year-olds were given two shots of a 10-microgram dose of the vaccine, one-third the dose size that has been given to people 12 and older.

The companies expect data on how well the vaccine works in children aged two to five and those between six months and two years as soon as the fourth quarter of this year.

Unlike the larger clinical trial the drugmakers previously conducted in adults, the 2,268 participant paediatric trial was not primarily designed to measure the vaccine's efficacy by comparing the number of Covid-19 cases in vaccine recipients to those who received a placebo.

Instead, the trial compares the amount of neutralising antibodies induced by the vaccine in the children to the response of older recipients in the adult trial.

A Pfizer spokesperson said the companies may later disclose vaccine efficacy from the trial but there had not been enough cases of Covid-19 yet among the participants to make that determination.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been linked by regulators to rare cases of heart inflammation in adolescents and young adults, particularly young men. Pfizer said they did not see any instances of heart inflammation in the trial participants.