Canada authorizes COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents
Canada on Wednesday became the first country to open up coronavirus vaccinations for adolescents by authorizing the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for residents ages 12 to 15.
The Canadian health department announced the move in a press release, which comes just weeks after the government received an application to expand the vaccine to the younger age group.
“After completing a thorough and independent scientific review of the evidence, the Department has determined that this vaccine is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 when used in children between 12 and 15 years of age,” Health Canada said of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, which in December was approved for emergency use in the country for people as young as 16.
Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said at a news conference following the announcement Wednesday that health officials decided to open up the two-dose vaccine to younger people following a trial of more than 2,000 participants that began in April.
The trial found that based on results seven days after the second dose was administered, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 100 percent effective for both adolescents who showed evidence of previously being infected with COVID-19 as well as those who didn’t.
Wednesday’s move marks a hopeful sign that the coronavirus vaccine will be approved for adolescents elsewhere as countries push to vaccinate as many people as possible to achieve herd immunity.
Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert in the U.S., said Wednesday that he believed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is likely to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech shot for Americans as young as 12 years old “within several days.”
“I think it’s going to be very soon,” Fauci said during an interview on NBC’s “Today.”
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla had said during a Tuesday earnings call that an FDA decision on using the coronavirus vaccine among adolescents would come “shortly” after nearly a month of the agency reviewing the emergency use application.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently authorized for emergency use among Americans who are at least 16 years old.
Pfizer also told reporters Tuesday that it expects to have trials for children ages 2 to 5 and 5 to 11 by the fall, with plans to request emergency use authorization for those age groups in September.
Pfizer is also conducting trials on the safety of the vaccine among pregnant women and is expected to release data on this by August.