Pfizer said Wednesday that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and strongly protective in adolescents, a step toward possibly clearing the jabs for use in teens before the next school year begins.
In adolescents 12 to 15 years old, vaccination led to a higher protective antibody response than in adults and was seen to be 100 percent effective against symptomatic disease, a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed study of 2,260 adolescents found. No teen who received the vaccine in the late-stage trial developed COVID-19, Pfizer said; by contrast, 18 teens in the placebo group became infected. Side effects generally mirrored those in adults, such as pain, fever, chills, and fatigue, particularly after the second dose.
The company also said the vaccine elicited a “robust” antibody response in children ages 12 to 15, revving up kids’ immune systems with high levels of virus-fighting antibodies, somewhat higher than were seen in an earlier trial of 16- to 25-year-olds.
“This is exactly the news that we hoped to hear,” Dr. Buddy Creech, a pediatric infectious disease expert at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee who was not involved in the study, told NBC News.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company plans to submit the new data on the vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration and other regulators “as soon as possible,” with the hope that kids in the age group will be able to get vaccinated before school resumes in the fall. “We share the urgency to expand the use of our vaccine to additional populations and are encouraged by the clinical trial data from adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15,” Bourla said in a press release.
Most COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out worldwide are aimed at adults, who are at higher risk from the disease. Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for ages 16 and older. But vaccinating children of all ages will be critical to halting the pandemic as well as helping schools start to look a little more normal after months of disruption. Last week, Pfizer began studies of the jab on children, with the first group of 5- to 11-year-olds getting the vaccine. The company says that it should have results from that study in the later half of 2021.