The study enrolled 2,260 adolescents aged 12-15. No infections were reported in the group given the vaccine produced by Pfizer and its European partner, BioNTech, the release said. The placebo group reported 18 cases of COVID-19.
The vaccinated children showed a strong antibody response with no serious side effects.
Albert Bourla, PhD, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, said the company plans to seek Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization, which could allow this age group to be vaccinated before the start of the next school year. Pfizer will also seek authorization from the European Medicines Agency.
“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,” Dr. Bourla said in the release.
The clinical trials showed a stronger response in children aged 12-15 than the 95% effectiveness reported in clinical trials in adults. The Pfizer vaccine is now authorized to be given to people aged 16 and up in the United States.
Health experts said the clinical trials – while not peer-reviewed – amounted to very good news.
“The sooner that we can get vaccines into as many people as possible, regardless of their age, the sooner we will be able to really feel like we’re ending this pandemic for good,” Angela Rasmussen, PhD, a virologist affiliated with Georgetown University in Washington, told The New York Times.
Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said that getting children vaccinated is an important step toward achieving herd immunity.
“We don’t really know what that magical point of herd immunity is, but we do know that if we get the overwhelming population vaccinated, we’re going to be in good shape,” he said earlier in March during a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “We ultimately would like to get and have to get children into that mix.”
Pfizer said it started clinical trials during the week of March 23 with children aged 5-11 and will next start trials with children aged 2-5, followed by children aged 6 months to 2 years. Vaccine makers Moderna and AstraZeneca also have started clinical trials in younger children.
A version of this article first appeared on WebMD.com.