The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is proving to be more effective for children than adults, according to the phase three findings released by Pfizer and BioNTech.
Pfizer announced Wednesday that its 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.
“We were included in that study here and we enrolled children in our study back in December and January and I’m not surprised by these findings. I’m not surprised at all,” said Dr. Joe Domachowske, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital.
In these trials, two doses of the Pfizer vaccine were administered to one group, just like the adult trials, and a placebo of saltwater to another.
In the placebo group, only 18 cases of symptomatic COVID-19 infection were reported, deeming the vaccine to have 100 percent efficacy.
Also, the age group produced more antibodies than the 16-to-25 age group. This is likely a result of younger and healthier immune systems.
The side-effect profile proved to be about the same as for 16 and older. About 20 to 25 percent of the inoculated participants experienced chills and fever. A smaller portion experienced a persistent headache difficult to break.
“Adults were more likely to have fatigue, chills, or headaches from the second dose, just overall, which isn’t a surprise. But what we found in the 12-and-15-year-olds, they were more likely to have mild to moderate effects from the first does and tolerate the second dose better,” said Dr. Domachowske.
Vaccinating children is essential to achieving herd immunity with children under 18 accounting for about 23 percent of the United States population.
“But they shed high amounts of viruses generally, for any of these [COVID] viruses, and they’re more likely to transmit it because they’re hygiene isn’t as good,” said Domachowske.
Though parents may be hesitant to vaccinate their children, Dr. Domachowske reminds people that children may be at a lower risk for severe infection, but they still carry and spread the disease and some can develop multi-system inflammatory syndrome following infection.
“We have to be aware that severe illness can happen and we can’t predict which kids in our community might succumb to more serious infection,” said Domachowske.
Pfizer and BioNTech are planning to request emergency use authorization as quickly as possible.
Starting Monday, Upstate will begin conducting trials in children five to six months old.