EU countries can soon start vaccinating children as young as five against COVID-19, according to the European Medicines Agency called the BioNTech / Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was safe and effective in younger children.
The EMA’s Medicines Committee on Thursday recommended giving the vaccine in two doses three weeks apart to people aged five to 11 years. The dose in this age group is a third of the amount given to people 12 years and older, the EMA said.
A study in this age group showed that this lower dose elicited an antibody response similar to that seen in adults aged 16-25.
A placebo-controlled study of nearly 2,000 children aged five to 11 years without prior coronavirus infection showed the vaccine was 90.7 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19.
The side effects seen in the study were similar to those seen in adults, such as injection site pain, headache, and chills.
Since the delta variant has dominated Europe, infection rates have skyrocketed, especially among young people. While the chances of getting serious illness are lower, they are bringing the highly transmittable virus back into their homes.
In Austria, which has just been completely banned and is planning a general vaccination mandate from February, weekly at the latest incident for 5- to 14-year-olds there are 2,249 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – more than double the national number.
The World Health Organization also changed course on Wednesday to support vaccination of children based on local situations, but said global vaccine exchanges should come first.
Once the EMA’s decision is approved by the European Commission, EU countries will decide if and when to extend the jab to younger children.