An important step has been taken in the United States to vaccinate infants and young children against Covid-19. Experts, members of an advisory committee, on Wednesday, June 15, issued a positive recommendation for the approval of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines from the age of 6 months. As in many countries, this is the last age group not to have access to this protection. In France, vaccination for 5- to 11-year-olds was opened in December 2021, younger children are not yet affected.
During discussions streamed live over the internet, these experts reviewed all data from available clinical trials conducted at Pfizer with children aged 6 months to 4 years and at Moderna with children aged 6 months to 5 years. In two votes, the 21 experts agreed that the benefits of vaccinating young children outweighed the risks. “I know there are definitely a lot of very relieved parents listening to us today,” commented Jay Portnoy, one of the committee members.
Based on these reports, the American Medicines Agency (FDA), whose decisions relate to the world, is now responsible for official approval. About 10 million doses will then be sent immediately to all corners of the country, before millions more to follow in the following weeks, the US government said. The injections could begin as early as next Tuesday, once the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also give the green light. CDC experts meet on Friday and Saturday. The dosage of these vaccines has been adjusted. This is a quarter of a dose for Moderna (25 micrograms compared to 100 for adults) and a tenth for Pfizer (3 micrograms compared to 30).
The main difference between the two products is the number of injections required: Moderna’s vaccine is given in two doses a month apart. However, a Moderna representative said studies are already being planned into a booster dose. Pfizer’s is given immediately in three injections, two doses of which failed to elicit an adequate immune response due to the low dosage. The first two injections of Pfizer will be given three weeks apart, with the third eight weeks after the second.
According to a preliminary estimate, the vaccine from the Pfizer-BioNTech alliance proved to be 80 percent effective against symptomatic forms of the disease in young children. But that number is based on a very small number of positive cases, the FDA qualified.
Moderna’s vaccine has been shown to be 51% effective in babies aged 6 months to less than 2 years and 37% effective in children aged 2 to 5 years. These numbers are consistent with the efficacy observed in adults against the Omicron variant, according to the American agency. However, the vaccine still protects them well against severe forms of Covid-19.
In terms of side effects, about a quarter of the toddlers who received Moderna developed a fever, especially after the second dose. It usually subsided after a day. At Pfizer, the rate of fever observed in children who received the vaccine and those who received placebo was comparable.