COVID-19: BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine to begin trials on children, infants | News | DW | 25.03.2021

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COVID-19: BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine to begin trials on children, infants

The BioNTech-Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is now being tested on young children under-12, with efficacy data expected later this year. The vaccine makers hope the shot can be administered to kids by 2022.

A healthcare worker fills a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

No coronavirus vaccine has currently been approved for use in children under 12

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced Thursday its joint vaccine with German company BioNTech SE would begin trials on children under 12 years old. The vaccine is currently authorized by US regulators for ages 16 and older.

"Together with our partner BioNTech, we have announced a global study to further evaluate our COVID-19 vaccine in healthy children ages 6 months to 11 years," Pfizer CEO and Chairman Albert Bourla said in a tweet. "We are proud to start this much needed study for children and families awaiting a possible vaccine option."

Pfizer is the latest company to test its vaccine on young children, after Moderna announced trials on the same age group earlier this month. Johnson & Johnson also plans to test its vaccine on children and infants. 

The two-shot BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine will first be tested at different dosages of 10, 20 and 30 micrograms in a 144-participant Phase I/II trial. Pfizer spokesperson Sharon Castillo said volunteers in the trial received their first shots on Wednesday.

The company will later move forward with a 4,500 participant late-stage trial. Efficacy data is expected in the second half of 2021.

Watch video 02:24

Meet the couple behind the BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

When could the vaccine be administered to kids?

Pfizer hopes the vaccine can be administered to young children by early 2022. So far, no coronavirus vaccine has been authorized for kids under-16 in the United States, with only the BioNTech-Pfizer shot being given to 16- and 17-year-olds.

The BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine is currently being tested on children between the ages of 12 and 15 in both the US and Europe, with data from that trial anticipated in the coming weeks. 

Watch video 12:06

Children and the Coronavirus

Why should kids be vaccinated for COVID-19?

Although kids do not typically experience severe coronavirus symptoms, experts believe they need to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity. In the United States, for example, people under 18 make up roughly a fifth of the US population of 330 million. 

"If we really want to get towards herd immunity, that's going to require as much as 80 percent of our population to be vaccinated, and we really can't do that without vaccinating children," American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) President Lee Savio Beers told the AFP news agency earlier this month. 

wd/sms (Reuters, AFP)