There are almost 30 million children aged 5 to 11 in the United States. In December 2020, vaccines against the virus that causes COVID were approved for use by young people aged 16 or older. In May 2021, the age was lowered to include children 12 years or older. On Friday, October 15, 2021, the federal government outlined plans to distribute the Pfizer vaccine to children at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and schools.
Pfizer vaccine studied in young children
In a new study discussed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), more than 2,200 children aged 5 to 11 years were given either a much smaller dose of vaccine (10 micrograms, which is a third of the dose that has been given to adults) or a placebo (dummy shot that looks just like the real shot but does not contain the vaccine)). The children received 2 doses 3 weeks apart. Pfizer reports that the immune response (rise in antibody levels) in the children was similar to that seen in older children despite the smaller dose. They found that the vaccine was over 90% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID. There were 3 cases of COVID among children who were given the vaccine compared to 16 who were given placebo.
Importantly, the researchers did not find any cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), although this has been a rare occurrence in males under the age of 30. Data from studies including larger numbers of children need to be studied to see if rare side effects are linked to the vaccine.
Other vaccine studies in children underway
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are also studying their vaccines for children. Currently, they can only be given to adults 18 years or older.
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