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A vaccine for younger teens? UW pediatrician shares takeaways from Pfizer study

Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 9:40 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2021 at 10:25 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A UW pediatrician says early findings from a vaccine study on adolescents is “encouraging,” stirring hope for a “pretty darn normal” fall for middle and high school students.

Pfizer announced Wednesday that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe for people as young as 12 years old. The preliminary data came after the company enrolled more than 2,200 participants between 12 and 15 years old.

According to the company, the vaccine showed 100% efficacy, which means that none of the participants who got the two-dose Pfizer shots tested positive for coronavirus.

“I’d say this is preliminary information that the vaccines are going to be able to protect middle and high school kids quite nicely,” said Dr. James Conway, a pediatrics professor at UW-Madison and the medical director of UW Health’s immunization program.

Pfizer’s findings have yet to be peer-reviewed.

“Once that happens,” Dr. Conway added, “I think this is going to be the opportunity to broadly immunize a group of kids who have been the ones, unfortunately, to have managed virtual school very well [but] suffered as much as younger kids.”

According to Pfizer, the participants showed “robust antibody responses, exceeding those reported in trial of vaccinated 16-25 year old participants in an earlier analysis.”

“We expected this, actually, because the younger, healthy portion of the population-- they already handle infection fairly well in most circumstances. Their rates of hospitalization and death [are] obviously dramatically lower than older individuals,” Dr. Conway said.

Results of this study may not apply to all children younger than 12. Dr. Conway said questions, such as those on number of doses, remain.

“We may be able to get away with smaller doses as we get it into smaller people and minimize some of the side effects that go along with that, yet still get the same immune response,” he said.

In the coming weeks, Pfizer said it will ask the FDA to expand the Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine to include 12 to 15 year olds.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s getting a whole lot brighter all of a sudden,” Dr. Conway said.

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