It’s encouraging news in the fight against COVID-19: Pfizer announced Wednesday their vaccine is 100 percent effective against the virus in children ages 12 to 15, saying none of the trial participants who received the vaccine developed COVID.
"It’s really exciting to get some positive news during this pandemic," said Dr. Aaron Milstone, a Johns Hopkins Professor of Pediatrics.
Milstone said the efficacy is not the only important data that came out of this trial. Pfizer said the vaccine was "well tolerated" by the age group, with participants experiences similar side effects as adults.
"Part of the reason we want to give it to kids is to show that it’s safe and this trial has shown that this vaccine can be safely given to kids," said Milstone.
Milstone said vaccinating children is crucial because, although children are less likely to die of COVID-19, they can still get sick and spread it, and vaccines reduce transmission, which is important for high risk people.
"There are going to be some people who don’t respond to the vaccine so by having the kids getting vaccinated, it will add further protection to those susceptible adults, seniors and others who may not respond as well to the vaccine," said Milstone.
Pfizer plans to submit the data to the FDA in the coming weeks to update its Emergency Use Authorization to include children 12 and older, hoping to start vaccinating the new age group before the fall. Milstone said that could mean we see a return to closer to normal school in the fall.
"Vaccinating the middle school high school kids will make that environment safer for all the kids as well as the staff and teachers and other people in those school environments," said Milstone.
Companies are also focusing on an even younger population. Last week, Pfizer launched a trial for children ages 6 months to 11 years old and earlier this month, Moderna announced a trial with children ages 6 months to 12 years old, which the University of Maryland School of Medicine is participating in.
"As these trials continue to go down in age, we are especially looking at the safety data: how these kids tolerate the vaccines, are they having different reactions than adults are having? We don’t anticipate that but that’s why it’s really important to do these trials," said Milstone.
Pfizer is currently authorized for use in people ages 16 and older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson's vaccines are authorized for those ages 18 and older.