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  23 May 2022, 17:20

Pfizer Covid vaccine for under-fives effective with three doses

     WASHINGTON, May 23, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine 
is safe and effective for children aged six months to under five years when 
given in three doses, the companies said in a statement Monday.

     The announcement comes as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is 
planning meetings in the coming weeks to weigh authorizing Covid vaccines 
among the youngest children, the only age group who are not yet eligible in 
most countries, a source of concern to many parents.

     Pfizer-BioNTech evaluated three doses, given at three micrograms, in a 
clinical trial and found the vaccine evoked a strong immune response. Side 
effects were similar in the vaccine and placebo groups.

     Vaccine efficacy was 80.3 percent, according to a preliminary estimate.

     "We are pleased that our formulation for the youngest children, which we 
carefully selected to be one-tenth of the dose strength for adults, was well 
tolerated and produced a strong immune response," said Pfizer CEO Albert 
Bourla in a statement.

     "We look forward to soon completing our submissions to regulators 
globally with the hope of making this vaccine available to younger children 
as quickly as possible, subject to regulatory authorization," he added.

     The FDA has tentatively scheduled three dates in June where experts will 
meet and likely decide whether to authorize the Pfizer Covid vaccine for 
under-fives and the Moderna vaccine for under-sixes, which is given as two 
shots of 25 micrograms.

     The agency was originally set to evaluate the Pfizer vaccine given as 
two doses in February, but data showed it did not provoke a strong enough 
immune response in children aged two to four. The FDA then asked to see data 
for a third shot.

     - Data welcomed -

     According to the new data, 1,678 children received a third dose at least 
two months after the second dose, at a time when Omicron was the predominant 
variant.

     An analysis of a subset of participants showed antibody levels were 
similar to 16- to 25-year-olds who were given the full strength vaccine at 
two doses.

     No new adverse events were identified, and the majority of side effects 
were mild or moderate.

     "Based on Pfizer's press release, three doses of its Covid vaccine 
appear to be very safe and highly effective in preventing not only severe 
disease, hospitalization, and death from Covid, but even symptomatic Covid at 
a time when Omicron was the dominant variant," Celine Gounder, editor-at-
large for public health at Kaiser Health News told AFP.

     "However, we know that protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection and 
milder symptomatic disease wanes over time," added Gounder, an infectious 
disease specialist and epidemiologist.

     "Pfizer is reporting follow-up data only out to seven days after the 
third dose of vaccine. It's too early to say how the 3-dose series would 
perform out to several months or a year."

     Jeremy Faust, of Brigham & Women's Hospital Department of Emergency 
Medicine, told AFP: "My first impression is very positive. These numbers are 
exactly the kinds of signals we wanted to see."

     "I wish the 2-dose series had worked for Pfizer-BioNTech. It didn't. But 
the 3-dose series appears to have given these very young children the 
protection we want them to have," added the doctor.

     If and when both Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccines are authorized, US 
parents will have to consider whether they want their children to receive 
Moderna's two dose vaccine -- which will offer faster protection -- or 
Pfizer's three doses -- which will take longer to be effective but may 
ultimately be more protective.

     Severe disease from Covid is very rare among under-fives but can occur, 
with 477 US deaths in this age group since the start of the pandemic, or 
about 0.1 percent of all deaths.

     Children can also contract a rare post-viral condition called 
multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which has affected 
some 8,210 US children and killed 68. 

     Like adults, some children who get Covid may go on to develop long 
Covid, with new, ongoing or returning symptoms, including brain fog and 
fatigue.

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