Pfizer Says Its Vaccine Is 100% Effective in Children—Here’s What That Means for the Next School Year

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New clinical trial results of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine show that it's greatly effective in adolescents. This is an encouraging milestone because it means that children in this age group may be able to get vaccinated in advance of the new school year this fall.

Pfizer's study is small, including 2,260 children (and has not yet been peer reviewed or published), but none of the participants who received the vaccine contracted COVID-19; in the placebo group, 18 children tested positive. As such, the shot has been designated as 100 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 cases in children age 12 to 15, according to Pfizer.

Study participants were given the same vaccine dosage as adults, and they experienced similar side effects—especially after the second dose—including fever, chills, fatigue, and pain.

While the findings from such a relatively small study may not seem significant, they build upon existing knowledge around the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine in adults. Researchers compared the antibody levels seen in vaccinated adults to those observed in these vaccinated children, and they found that the latter group actually produced higher levels.

Pfizer says it will seek emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand vaccinations to include this new age group. It's unclear how long this process will take—it took three weeks for the FDA's authorization to begin inoculating adults.

“We share the urgency to expand the authorization of our vaccine to use in younger populations and are encouraged by the clinical trial data from adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla in a statement. Bourla's hope is that the vaccine will become available to this demographic in advance of the new school year beginning in the fall. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson—the other two major vaccine providers in the U.S.—are also working on juvenile trials so as to expand their reach to younger demographics.

Here's exactly how vaccines work:

While children are considered a low-risk demographic when it comes to COVID-19, this doesn't mean the illness poses them no threat. Children represent 13 percent of COVID-19 cases, which potentially represents a considerable potential for spread. According to the Associated Press, 13,500 American children have been hospitalized from COVID-19 infections, and 268 have died (the majority of whom are from BIPOC populations). As new, more transmissible, and more deadly strains gain traction, it's important to not only protect children but those they may infect, too.

For this reason, James, a tech entrepreneur in Los Angeles who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, says he plans to have his 13-year-old son vaccinated as soon as possible. "Part of moving past this chapter as a society is getting kids vaccinated—it helps slow further mutations and curbs spread," he says. "It's important for his safety, and to keep the rest of our family and community safe."

On a more personal level, James says it'll be a huge relief to him with respect to his son's development if vaccines do become available prior to the new school year this fall. "It's an important year for him, and we're excited that he'll be able to experience it safely and in person with his class," he says. "Too many kids missed out on that stuff due to COVID-19—class trips, school dances... he'll get to be a kid again before he goes to high school."

New York-based beauty expert Cheryl Kramer Kaye, the mother of 11-year-old twins, shares James' enthusiasm over the possibility of a vaccinated school year. "Due to our COVID-19 concerns and NYC public schools' openings and closings, [my sons] have literally been at school in person two days this entire school year," she says. "It'll be an easy decision to send them back to school without this dark cloud hanging over our heads."

Since many parents have been pulling double or even triple duty as caretakers, teachers, and employees/employers throughout the last year, the news of the Pfizer vaccine's efficacy in children offers hope that their childcare stressors may soon diminish, too. Hopefully, vaccination of younger children will soon follow. Pfizer began a trial on younger children last week, inoculating kids age 5 to 11. The company plans to expand the age range from there, testing the vaccine on children as young as 6 months old. Vaccinations in younger age groups, however, are not expected to take place prior to the school year beginning this fall. Instead, they will most likely become available in late 2021.

"I'm thrilled to get all three of my kids vaccinated as soon as they are able to be," says beauty director Kelly Atterton, a resident of Los Angeles. "I'm excited for them to return to a much more normal life experience, which includes not feeling scared to catch a tricky virus."

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