Pfizer-BioNTech Say Their COVID Vaccine Safe, Effective for 5-11-Year-Olds

The Pfizer and BioNTech drug companies said Monday that lower dose shots of their two-dose COVID-19 vaccine are safe and effective for five-to-11-year-old children.

The U.S. company and its German partner BioNTech said trials showed the vaccine was well-tolerated and robust, neutralizing antibody responses at the lower dose levels necessary in younger children.

Pfizer said it plans to soon seek U.S., British and European Union authorization for use of the vaccine for the younger age group, which could greatly expand the scope of the U.S. vaccination effort. About 28 million U.S. children fall into the affected age range, although millions of adults have themselves declined to get the jab.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than 181 million people have been fully vaccinated in the country, but 70 million others 12 and older have so far, for one reason or another, not been inoculated.

Pfizer said it studied a lower dose — a third of the adult strength — in tests involving more than 2,200 kindergartners and elementary school students, two-thirds of whom were given the vaccine and a third saltwater shots. The company said the children developed antibody levels that were just as strong as exhibited by teenagers and young adults.

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine” sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken on Oct. 30, 2020. /Reuters

With children now back in school, and the delta variant spreading throughout the U.S., parents in many communities have been anxious for government health officials to approve the vaccine for their children. Children are at lower risk than older people of severe illness or death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but more than 5 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 460 have died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. William Gruber, a pediatrician and Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press that by the end of the month, the company would apply for emergency use of the vaccine for five-to-11-year-olds in the U.S. and shortly thereafter in Britain and Europe.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would then evaluate Pfizer’s data, a process that could take a few weeks. U.S. vaccine maker Moderna also is studying its shots for young children. Both Pfizer and Moderna are studying use of the vaccine for children as young as six months old, with results expected later this year.

In Britain, the COVID-19 vaccination campaign for children between the ages of 12 and 15 began Monday at schools around the country. Meanwhile, some private hospitals in Kolkata, India, bracing for a possible surge in pediatric COVID-19 cases, have enhanced their facilities and provided additional training for health care professionals.

A new study published by the CDC revealed that roughly one in three people who has tested positive for COVID-19 still reported symptoms several weeks after the fact. The CDC reported that rates were even higher in women, Black people, those older than 40, and those with preexisting conditions. The CDC describes people with “long COVID” as experiencing symptoms more than one month after a positive test result.

The U.S. has more COVID-19 cases than any other country, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, with more than 42 million infections. Around the world, there have been more than 228 million cases and 4.7 million deaths, according to the data.

Singapore reported more than 1,000 new cases Sunday, the highest rate for the country since April 2020. Even with 80 percent of its population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, Singapore has paused further reopening.

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