News|Coronavirus pandemic
Pfizer COVID jab expanded to US children as young as 12
Vaccinating younger ages is considered an important step for getting children back into schools safely.
The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is already being used in multiple countries for teenagers as young as 16 [File: Jessica Hill/ AP]
10 May 2021
Coronavirus vaccines will be made available to more children in the United States as regulators on Monday expanded use of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab to those as young as 12, sparking a race to protect students before they head back to class later this year.
Shots could begin as soon as Thursday, after a federal vaccine advisory committee issues recommendations for using the two-dose vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds. An announcement is expected Wednesday.
BioNTech: ‘No evidence’ COVID vaccine needs adapting for variants
COVID vaccine donations matter more than waivers, EU leaders say
WHO approves emergency use of China’s Sinopharm COVID vaccine
‘Monumental moment’: US backs COVID vaccine patent waivers
Most COVID-19 vaccines worldwide have been authorised for adults. Pfizer’s vaccine is being used in multiple countries for teens as young as 16, and Canada recently became the first to expand use to 12 and up.
Parents, school administrators and public health officials elsewhere have eagerly awaited approval for the shot to be made available to more children.
US President Joe Biden issued a statement hailing the authorisation as “a promising development in our fight against the virus”.
“If you are a parent who wants to protect your child, or a teenager who is interested in getting vaccinated, today’s decision is a step closer to that goal,” he said.
Most children with COVID-19 only develop mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, children are not without risk of becoming seriously ill, and they can still spread the virus. There have been outbreaks traced to sporting events and other activities for children aged between 12 and 15.
Dr William Gruber, a top vaccine scientist at Pfizer, said the authorisation of the vaccine for young teens would help the US expand its immune population and protect an age group that has not been completely spared from severe disease.
“I hear from pediatricians and people out in the community, what a godsend this is going to be for the adolescent population who have been restricted in terms of sports activities, drama club and the other sorts of things that naturally we want them to engage in,” Gruber said.
“This is a watershed moment in our ability to fight back the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Vaccinating children of all ages will be critical to a return to normalcy.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared the Pfizer vaccine is safe and offers strong protection for younger teens based on testing of more than 2,000 volunteers ages 12 to 15.
WATCH LIVE at 7pm ET: Join Acting FDA Commissioner @DrWoodcockFDA and @FDACBER Director Dr. Peter Marks as they discuss Pfizer-BioNTech's #COVID19 vaccine for use in adolescents 12-15 years of age.
— U.S. FDA (@US_FDA) May 10, 2021
The study found no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared with 18 among kids given dummy shots. More intriguing, researchers found the kids developed higher levels of virus-fighting antibodies than earlier studies measured in young adults.
The younger teens received the same vaccine dosage as adults and had the same side effects, mostly sore arms and flu-like fever, chills or aches that signal a revved-up immune system, especially after the second dose.
Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards”, said FDA vaccine chief Dr Peter Marks.
“Having a vaccine authorised for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Marks said.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech recently requested similar authorisation in the European Union, with other countries to follow.
The latest news is welcome for US families struggling to decide what activities are safe to resume when the youngest family members remain unvaccinated.
A  syringe with a dose of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in a vaccination centre in France [Stephane Mahe/Reuters]
“I can’t feel totally comfortable because my boys aren’t vaccinated,” said Carrie Vittitoe, a substitute teacher and freelance writer in Louisville, Kentucky, who is fully vaccinated as are her husband and 17-year-old daughter.
The FDA decision means her 13-year-old son soon could be eligible, leaving only her 11-year-old son who would be unvaccinated.
Pfizer is not the only company seeking to lower the age limit for its vaccine.
Moderna Inc recently said preliminary results from a study in 12- to 17-year-olds show strong protection and no serious side effects. Another US company, Novavax, has a COVID-19 vaccine in late-stage development and just began a study in 12- to 17-year-olds, as well.
Next up is testing whether the vaccine works for even younger children. Both Pfizer and Moderna have begun US studies in children ages six months to 11 years.
Those studies explore whether babies, pre-schoolers and primary school-aged children will need different doses than teens and adults. Pfizer expects its first results sometime after September.
Outside of the US, AstraZeneca is studying its vaccine among 6- to 17-year-olds in the United Kingdom. And in China, Sinovac recently announced it has submitted preliminary data to Chinese regulators showing its vaccine is safe in children as young as three years old.
‘Monumental moment’: US backs COVID vaccine patent waivers
World Health Organization chief welcomes US announcement that it will support waivers for coronavirus vaccines.
5 May 2021
WHO approves emergency use of China’s Sinopharm COVID vaccine
Sinopharm could now be included in the UN-backed COVAX programme distributing COVID jabs to lower income countries.
7 May 2021
COVID vaccine donations matter more than waivers, EU leaders say
European Union leaders say any benefit from a temporary waiver would take too long to make a real difference.
7 May 2021
BioNTech: ‘No evidence’ COVID vaccine needs adapting for variants
German company says the shot it developed with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer does not require modifications for now.
10 May 2021
Mobster videos renew scrutiny on Turkey’s wealth amnesty law
Agreement in principle reached over Suez Canal ship
Bahrain says it invited Qatar twice for bilateral talks
Russia says warning shots fired at British destroyer in Black Sea
Violations against children in conflict ‘alarmingly high’: UN
‘Sabotage attack’ on Iranian nuclear building foiled
India says COVID Delta Plus ‘variant of concern’, 22 cases found
Air raid kills dozens in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, say witnesses
Our Channels
Our Network
Follow Al Jazeera English:
© 2021 Al Jazeera Media Network
You rely on Al Jazeera for truth and transparency
We understand that your online privacy is very important and consenting to our collection of some personal information takes great trust. We ask for this consent because it allows Al Jazeera to provide an experience that truly gives a voice to the voiceless.
You have the option to decline the cookies we automatically place on your browser but allowing Al Jazeera and our trusted partners to use cookies or similar technologies helps us improve our content and offerings to you. You can change your privacy preferences at any time by selecting ‘Cookie preferences’ at the bottom of your screen. To learn more, please view our Cookie Policy.
Cookie preferences