The European Medicines Agency (EMA) this week began to evaluate the extension of the use of the Pfizer vaccine to adolescents and is expected to confirm its approval in June. For its part, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing to authorize it for adolescents between 12 and 15 years old early next week .
Authorization by both international bodies is key to starting the immunization of minors and is also good news for some parents who are eager to protect their children during summer activities and before the start of the next school year.
Same side effects as in adults
Pfizer reported several weeks ago, in a clinical trial conducted to assess the safety of administering its vaccine to adolescents, that none developed symptomatic infections, a sign of significant protection . The volunteers also generated strong antibody responses and experienced roughly the same side effects seen in people ages 16 to 25.
Moderna expects results from its own clinical trial in adolescents ages 12 to 17 very soon, followed by results for children ages 6 months to 12 years later this year. Other companies hope to start teen trials soon. Soon after, the researchers will open trials for children as young as 5 years old .
AstraZeneca and Janssen also intend to study how their vaccine works in minors, but both have stalled their plans after detecting rare cases of thrombi. At the moment they have not started their studies, but they hope to do so shortly .
Timeframes for starting vaccination
Canada has become the first country to authorize a vaccine for the age group of adolescents under 16 years of age. The health authorities, thus, have authorized this Wednesday the use of Pfizer for minors aged 12 to 15 years after having already endorsed it for 16 years and older .
The United States and the European Union are still studying it, but the European Union intends to purchase up to 1.8 billion doses of second-generation vaccines to administer to children and adolescents, as well as to combat the variants.
In Spain, the latest update of the vaccination strategy focuses on the immunization of people over 60 years of age and risk groups . People between the ages of 50 and 59 (born between 1962 and 1971 inclusive) should receive at least one dose of Pfizer, Moderna, or Janssen between May and June.
For the time being, it stands by the decision not to administer AstraZeneca to those under 60 years of age. Below these age groups, the Ministry of Health all about whether supply should be directed to an age group that until now seems to be mostly free of serious COVID-19 cases , promoting, for example, the COVAX donation program to end the pandemic.
Still, while adolescents do not get seriously ill from the virus as often as adults, studies suggest that because they are often asymptomatic and incidental to social distancing, they can spread efficiently, with each other and with adults such as parents, grandparents, and teachers .
To achieve group immunity that mitigates the circulation of the virus, it is convenient that a large part of the population is protected, and if adolescents and children are not vaccinated, we will be leaving out a significant percentage of society.
Additionally, although the disease has had a much lesser impact on children than on older adults, some 2.2 million pediatric cases have been reported in the United States and about 280 children have died . Two thousand children have also contracted a rare and dangerous disease related to the coronavirus called multisystem inflammatory syndrome. In addition, we must not forget that even young and healthy people who have already passed COVID-19 can become infected again: the vaccine is essential .