Asian Reporter web extra, May 10, 2021
Pfizer COVID-19 shot expanded to U.S. children as young as 12
By Lauran Neergaard and Candice Choi
The Associated Press
May 10, 2021
COVID-19 vaccines finally are headed for more kids as U.S.
regulators on Monday, May 10, expanded use of Pfizerís shot to
those as young as 12 years old, sparking a race to protect
middle and high school students before they head back to class
in the fall.
Shots could begin as soon as a federal vaccine advisory
committee issues recommendations for using the two-dose vaccine
in 12- to 15-year-olds, expected Wednesday.
Vaccinating children of all ages will be critical to a return
to normalcy. Most COVID-19 vaccines rolling out worldwide have
been authorized for adults. Pfizerís vaccine is being used in
multiple countries for teens as young as 16, and Canada recently
became the first to expand use to those age 12 and up. Parents,
school administrators, and public health officials elsewhere are
anxiously awaiting the shot to become available to more kids.
"This is a watershed moment in our ability to fight back the
COVID-19 pandemic," Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice
president whoís also a pediatrician, told The Associated Press.
The 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 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to
15. The study found no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated
adolescents compared to 18 among kids given dummy shots. More
intriguing, researchers found the kids developed higher levels
of virus-fighting antibodies than earlier studies measured in
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.
Pfizerís testing in adolescents "met our rigorous standards,"
said FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks. "Having a vaccine
authorized for a younger population is a critical step in
continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by
the COVID-19 pandemic."
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech recently requested
similar authorization in the European Union, with other
countries to follow.
The latest news is welcome for U.S. families struggling to
decide what activities are safe to resume when only the youngest
family members remain unvaccinated.
"I canít feel totally comfortable because my boys arenít
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. The family hasnít yet resumed going to church, and
summer vacation will be a road trip so they donít have to get on
"We canít really go back to normal because two-fifths of our
family donít have protection," Vittitoe said.
Pfizer isnít the only company seeking to lower the age limit
for its vaccine. Moderna recently said preliminary results from
its study in 12- to 17-year-olds show strong protection and no
serious side effects. Another U.S. 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 U.S. studies in
children ages 6 months to 11 years. Those studies explore
whether babies, preschoolers, and elementary-age kids will need
different doses than teens and adults. Gruber said Pfizer
expects its first results sometime in the fall.
Outside of the U.S., AstraZeneca is studying its vaccine
among 6- to 17-year-olds in Britain. And in China, Sinovac
recently announced it has submitted preliminary data to Chinese
regulators showing its vaccine is safe in children as young as
Children are far less likely than adults to get seriously ill
from COVID-19 yet they still have been hard-hit by the pandemic.
They represent nearly 14% of the nationís coronavirus cases. At
least 296 have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. alone and more
than 15,000 have been hospitalized, according to a tally by the
American Academy of Pediatrics.
Thatís not counting the toll of family members becoming ill
or dying ó or the disruption to school, sports, and other
activities so crucial to childrenís overall well-being.
"Children right now are struggling," Gruber said. Plus, "we
need as many people in the country who have the potential to
transmit the virus to be protected."
Experts say children must get the shots if the country is to
vaccinate the 70% to 85% of the population necessary to reach
whatís called herd immunity.
In the meantime, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention says unvaccinated people ó including children ó
should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors
and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people
outside of their households.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives
support from the Howard Hughes Medical Instituteís Department of
Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.