Perhaps COVID-19 vaccinations are a step closer.
Moderna plans to apply for U.S. approval for kid-sized shots. On Wednesday, Moderna released early results from a study that showed the two small doses worked in children younger than 6. Pfizer, a competitor, hopes to find out if three of its lower-dose shots work as well within weeks.
These are the facts and future plans for the 18 million children below 5 years old in the United States.
Moderna claims that infants as young at 6 months old developed high levels virus-fighting antibodies after receiving shots that contained a quarter the amount given to adults. Although the full study results are still to be completed, early evidence suggests that the vaccine may provide protection against severe illnesses in children just as it does for adults.
Moderna’s study was done during the omicron surge. This means that none of the COVID-19 vaccinations are as effective against the super-contagious mutant as the ones against earlier variants.
The study found no cases of severe illness in the children. The vaccine was effective in preventing milder infections in children up to the age of 2 and in preschoolers, but only 44% were effective.
STUDY BY PFIZER
Pfizer’s vaccine and BioNTech’s partner are the only ones currently available in the U.S. for children. Children aged 12 and over get adult-strength shots, while 5- to 11-year olds get a third.
Pfizer is now testing smaller doses, one tenth of what the adult dose for children under 5. Early results indicated that two shots were sufficient to protect infants and toddlers, but not enough for preschoolers.
Multiple doses of vaccines are necessary to protect children’s immune systems from other diseases. Pfizer decided to give the children a third dose instead of testing for a higher dose. Early April is expected to bring forth results.
After receiving an application from either one or both of these companies, the Food and Drug Administration will debate the evidence publicly with its scientific advisors. If FDA approves shots for the youngest children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will convene its own experts to discuss the evidence and make recommendations.
While the U.S. is seeing fewer cases, others are reporting an increase. According to Dr. Bill Muller, Northwestern University researcher and Moderna’s pediatric study coordinator, a lull is “the best time for you to get immunized because then your protection will be extended by the next surge.”
WHY DO KIDS REQUIRE A VACCINE
Although COVID-19 isn’t generally as dangerous for children as it is for adults, some children do get seriously ill or even die from it. According to the CDC, around 400 children under 5 years old have died of COVID-19 since the outbreak. Children were particularly affected by the omicron variant, with children under five being hospitalized at higher rates that at the peak of previous delta surges, according to the CDC.
Around 57% of people aged 12-17 have received two Pfizer doses, while 27% of those aged 5-11 have received one.
MODERNA SHOTS – WHAT ABOUT OLD KIDS MODERNA?
Moderna’s vaccine is only available to adults, but it can be used in children as young as 6 years old in certain countries. FDA is investigating a rare side effect, heart inflammation. This can sometimes occur in teenagers and young adults, mostly men.
Moderna has updated the FDA safety information, stating that it supports adult-size doses of 12- to 17 year-olds. It also seeks authorization to use half of that dose in 6- and 11-year olds. All three age groups are expected to be considered by regulators.