The Food and Drug Administration issued emergency use authorization Monday to the Pfizer- BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children as young as 12 years old, a significant step in expanding vaccination of school-age kids that is likely to play an important role in getting America’s classrooms back to normal for next school year. The Pfizer vaccine, which had previously been approved for ages 16 and up, is the first vaccine to be authorized for younger adolescents after a trial of nearly 2,300 kids 12 to 15 years old.
The trial data, which has not yet been published or peer reviewed, showed a strong immune response in those that received the two-dose regimen, an indication that the vaccine will be effective in warding off severe illness associated with the virus. Moderna is expected to follow with its own vaccine trial results for younger adolescents in the coming weeks. Pfizer has said it also anticipates seeking emergency authorization for children as young as 2 in September; Moderna says it is also on track to have its vaccine authorized for young children by the end of the year.
Vaccine authorization for younger adolescents, and ultimately younger children, will require another mass vaccination mobilization, as well as significant persuasion by the medical community and political leaders to get parents of younger people to vaccinate their children. The severity of COVID-19 on an individual has so far roughly tracked with an individual’s age, with older Americans bearing the brunt of the disease and younger ones experiencing typically only mild symptoms. Just 18 of the nearly 600,000 reported deaths in the U.S. due to COVID-19 were children under the age of 18.