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For Younger Teens, This COVID Vaccine Is Looking Good

Pfizer says its vaccine has been shown to be safe, very protective in kids as young as 12
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 31, 2021 7:55 AM CDT

(Newser) – Pfizer announced Wednesday that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and strongly protective in kids as young as 12, a step toward possibly beginning shots in this age group before they head back to school in the fall. Most COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out are for adults, at higher risk from the coronavirus: Children represent only about 13% of documented COVID-19 cases in the US. Pfizer's vaccine is authorized for ages 16 and older, but vaccinating children of all ages will be critical to stopping the pandemic—and helping schools, at least the upper grades, start to look a little more normal after months of disruption. In a study of 2,260 US volunteers ages 12 to 15, preliminary data showed there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared to 18 among those given dummy shots, Pfizer reported, per the AP. It's a small study that hasn't yet been published, so another important piece of evidence is how well the shots revved up the kids' immune systems.

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Researchers reported high levels of virus-fighting antibodies, somewhat higher than were seen in studies of young adults. Kids had side effects similar to young adults, the company said, including pain, fever, chills, and fatigue, particularly after the second dose. The study will continue to track participants for two years for more information about long-term protection and safety. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech in the coming weeks plan to ask the FDA and European regulators to allow emergency use of the shots starting at age 12. Pfizer isn't the only company seeking to lower the age limit for its vaccine. Results also are expected soon from a US study of Moderna's vaccine in kids ages 12 to 17. In a sign that the findings were promising, the FDA has already allowed both companies to begin US studies in children 11 and younger. AstraZeneca last month began a study of its vaccine among 6- to 17-year-olds in Britain; Johnson & Johnson is planning its own pediatric studies.

(Read more Pfizer stories.)

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