The study followed 2,268 children in this age group who received two injections three weeks apart of a placebo or low dose vaccine. Each dose was one third of the amount given to adolescents and adults.
The researchers calculated that the low-dose vaccine was nearly 91% effective, based on 16 cases of COVID-19 in young people who received sham injections, compared to three cases in vaccinated children. No serious illness has been reported in young people, but those who were vaccinated had much milder symptoms than those who had not been vaccinated.
Additionally, young children who received low dose injections developed levels of coronavirus antibodies as strong as adolescents and young adults who received regular strength vaccines.
The full study has yet to be published, but details of it were in a new document released ahead of a key meeting of U.S. Food and Drug Administration vaccine advisors.
So when will young children be vaccinated in Europe?
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has already started evaluating a request from Pfizer to extend the use of its COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 5 to 11.
The EMA Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use will review the data on the vaccine, in order to decide whether to recommend the extension of its use. The opinion of this committee will then be sent to the European Commission, which will make a final decision.
The EMA will communicate on the outcome of its assessment, which they stated in A press release Monday “is expected in a few months, unless additional information is needed”.
The decision whether or not to follow this advice will then be up to each EU Member State.
Debate on the merits of immunizing young children
There has been some debate over the merits of vaccinating children, especially those under the age of 12 who do not have underlying conditions, as the chances of them developing serious illness from COVID-19 are quite low, and this must be weighed against the potential side effects of the vaccine.
The Pfizer study of young children found that low-dose injections were found to be safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects, such as arm pain, fever, or body aches that teens experience.
The study is not large enough to detect extremely rare side effects, such as inflammation of the heart that occasionally occurs after the second dose, mainly in young men.
Pfizer and Moderna are studying even younger children, as young as 6 months old. The results are expected later this year.