Image Credits: AP
In a major development in the war against the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Medicines Agency on Friday recommended the use of the Coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech be expanded to children ages 12 to 15, a decision that offers younger and less at-risk populations across the continent access to a COVID-19 shot for the first time during the pandemic.
Marco Cavaleri, who heads the EMA body that reviewed the vaccine, said the regulator had received the necessary data to authorize the vaccine for younger teens and found it to be highly effective against COVID-19. The decision needs to be rubber-stamped by the European Commission and individual national regulators, he said, as reported by AP.
Notably, it will be the first COVID vaccine for kids aged from 12 to 15 years. The COVID vaccine for kids is significant as various reports had suggested that COVID's third wave may affect children - though this is in no way a certainty, as per AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria. Apart from Pfizer, Bharat Biotech's Business Development and International Advocacy Head Dr. Raches Ella informed about the possible commencement of pediatric trials of its COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin from June.
The recommendation follows similar decisions by regulators in Canada and the U.S. last month, as some countries slowly approach their vaccination targets for adults and look to immunize as many people as possible. The EMA's recommendation that the vaccine's authorization be expanded to children was based on a study in more than 2,000 adolescents in the U.S. that showed the vaccine was safe and effective. Researchers will continue to monitor the shot’s long-term protection and safety in the children for another two years.
Most COVID-19 vaccines worldwide have been authorized for adults, who are at higher risk of severe disease and death from the coronavirus. But vaccinating children of all ages could be critical to stopping outbreaks, since some research has shown older children may play a role in spreading the virus even though they don’t typically fall seriously ill.
As the vaccine giant Pfizer is still in talks with India over COVID vaccine supply, it has told Indian authorities that its jab has shown "high effectiveness" against the SARS-CoV-2 variant prevalent in India and on people of Indian ethnicity or nationality, while it is suitable for everyone aged 12 years or above and can be stored for a month at 2-8 degrees. The 2-8 degrees storage is a gamechanger as previously the vaccine was said to only be storable at a much lower temperature that's colder than most standard refrigerators and cold storage can provide.
Pfizer, which is ready to offer 5 crore doses to India between July and October this year and has sought certain relaxations including indemnification, has held a series of interactions with the Indian government authorities recently including one this week, during which it shared the most recent data points regarding efficacy trials and approvals for its vaccine in various countries and by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"The current situation in India, and across the world, is not business as usual and we must not respond to it with processes as usual too," a source quoted Pfizer as having communicated to the Indian government reported by PTI.
(Image Credits: AP)
(Story Inputs: AP)