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October 20, 2021

How effective is Pfizer's vaccine in teens? Here's what a CDC study reveals.

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    Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine was highly effective at preventing hospitalizations among children ages 12 to 18, according to a CDC report released Tuesday—news that comes as the Biden administration details its plans to distribute vaccines to younger children.

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      Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine effective in teens

      For the report, CDC analyzed data on 464 hospitalized 12- to 18-year-olds at 19 pediatric hospitals in 16 states between June and September.

      Of the 464 patients, 179 were confirmed to have Covid-19, and of those patients, 97% were unvaccinated. Twenty-nine of the Covid-19 patients required life support, and two died, all of whom were unvaccinated, CDC said. Almost 75% of the Covid-19 patients in the study also had at least one underlying health condition, CDC found.

      Just six Covid-19 patients in the study were fully vaccinated, and none of those patients ended up in the ICU or required life support.

      Based on the data, CDC estimated the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is 93% effective at preventing hospitalization from Covid-19 among 12- to 18-year-olds. The estimated effectiveness was 91% among 12- to 15-year-olds and 94% among 16- to 18-year-olds.

      "This evaluation demonstrated that two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are highly effective at preventing Covid-19 hospitalization among persons aged 12-18 years," the authors of the report wrote, "and reinforces the importance of vaccination to protect U.S. youths against severe Covid-19."

      According to CDC, 46% of children ages 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated nationwide, as are 54% of 16- and 17-year-olds.

      The Biden administration's plan to vaccinate younger children

      Meanwhile, the Biden administration on Wednesday laid out its plans to vaccinate younger children against Covid-19 once the vaccine has been authorized for children ages five to 11.

      Once the vaccine receives FDA authorization, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide reimbursement for "full funding to states to support vaccinations and outreach," said Sonya Bernstein, a senior policy adviser for the White House Covid-19 Response Team. This would include setting up vaccination sites and providing logistical help, such as transportation to and from the sites.

      "We know that access is going to be critical here," Bernstein said, adding the Biden administration has been looking into ways to provide a "kid-friendly experience that makes sure that we're getting shots in arms with trusted providers in ways that makes parents feel comfortable."

      To that end, the Biden administration announced Covid-19 vaccines will be available at more than 25,000 pediatric offices and primary care sites, as well as at pharmacies and schools.

      The needles and vials that contain the vaccine will also be smaller, as the dose is expected to contain 10 micrograms rather than the 30-microgram dose used for those ages 12 and older. As a result, the doses will be easier to store and can be kept at standard refrigeration temperatures for up to 10 weeks, or for six months at colder temperatures, the New York Times reports

      However, polling suggests that some parents are hesitant to vaccinate their children. A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation in September found that about a third of parents of five to 11-year-olds planned to vaccinate their children "right away," while another third said they wanted to "wait and see."

      Data from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 are uncommon among children, but health experts say children could still develop serious or long-term complications from the disease.

      "Of course, adults are going to have much more severe diseases, but that doesn't mean that children are not affected as well," said Flor Munoz-Rivas, an associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine. "Children are typically ones that are vectors of transmitting the virus," and preventing them from getting infected "could potentially also have some effect" in stemming the spread of the virus, she said. (Mueller, New York Times, 10/19; Coleman, The Hill, 10/19; Walker, MedPage Today, 10/19; Rogers, New York Times, 10/20; Siddiqui, Wall Street Journal, 10/20)

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