Explained: Pfizer’s Covid vaccine approval for adolescents in US, EU and its efficacy

Approval of the vaccine for adolescents would further boost the US and the EU’s efforts to immunise their populations against COVID-19.

Regulators in the US and Europe are planning to give approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 for use in adolescents aged between 12-15 years by next week.

As of now, the vaccine is authorised for use under Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) in individuals 16 years or older and the same holds true for the 27-member European Union (EU) bloc. Approval of the vaccine for adolescents would further boost the US and the EU’s efforts to immunise their populations against COVID-19.

What is the efficacy of the vaccine in adolescents?

In participants in the 12-15 age group, Pfizer says their vaccine demonstrated an efficacy of 100 per cent, which means that none of the participants who received the vaccine fell sick with the disease. On March 31, Pfizer said that in a Phase 3 trial in adolescents 12 to 15 years of age with or without prior evidence of SARS-CoV-2, the vaccine demonstrated 100 percent efficacy and “robust antibody responses”.

Around 2,260 adolescents were enrolled in this trial. While 18 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group, no cases of COVID-19 were detected in the vaccinated group.

“Across the globe, we are longing for a normal life. This is especially true for our children. The initial results we have seen in the adolescent studies suggest that children are particularly well protected by vaccination, which is very encouraging given the trends we have seen in recent weeks regarding the spread of the B.1.1.7 UK variant. It is very important to enable them to get back to everyday school life and to meet friends and family while protecting them and their loved ones,” the CEO and co-founder of BioNTech was quoted as saying in a press release.

What is the state of vaccination drives in the EU and US?

At the moment, the US has authorised three vaccines for COVID-19 under EUA. These include Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine. As per the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 147 million people (44.4 percent of the population) in America have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 105 million people (31.8 percent of the population) are fully vaccinated.

But vaccine hesitancy in some sections of the US population is expected to slow down the vaccine rollout. For instance, as per the Pew Research Center, Black Americans and Republicans are less likely to get the vaccine than other ethnic and racial groups and Democrats, respectively.

In fact, the widely circulating coronavirus variants and vaccine hesitancy could be the reasons for keeping the US from reaching herd immunity, a report in The New York Times said.

In the EU, the vaccine rollout has been slower than expected. As per Our World in Data, the 27-member bloc has administered just over 31 doses per 100 people as against the UK, which has administered more than 72 doses per 100 people.

According to Euro News, in terms of absolute number of vaccinations, the UK is leading in Europe and is “way ahead of the rest of Europe”, with over 46 million vaccinations. Germany, Turkey and France follow with 25 million, 21 million and 19 million doses, respectively.

According to a Reuters report, the delays in delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine are slowing down the EU’s vaccination drive since the bloc was mainly relying on this vaccine. However, after repeated cuts in the supplies, it is now mainly relying on the vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.

Last week, the European Commission (EC) also initiated legal action against AstraZeneca over the shortfall in the company’s supply of vaccines to the EU.

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