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Pfizer launches vaccine trials for kids younger than 12

144 children between 6 months and 11 years old to receive shot in initial phase; pharma firm’s spokesperson says hoping for results later this year

Illustrative: A medical assistant prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, January 22, 2021. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
Illustrative: A medical assistant prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, January 22, 2021. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced Thursday it has begun testing the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with German partner BioNTech on children younger than 12.

The first volunteers received their initial shots Wednesday, according to a Pfizer spokesman, who said the firms were hoping for results later this year.

The study will initially include 144 participants between 6 months and 11 years old, with the two-shot vaccine administered in different sized doses. It is set to be later expanded to 4,500 children.

“We are proud to start this much-needed study for children and families eagerly awaiting a possible vaccine option,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla wrote on Twitter. “We need to continue gathering evidence on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines for important populations, including children.”

The launch of the trials comes after Moderna began a similar study last week.

Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, December 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Pfizer vaccine is currently approved for use in people aged 16 and older. Moderna’s shot is authorized for anyone older than 18.

Pfizer also recently enrolled children between 12 and 15 for clinical trials and hopes to have results within a few months for that age group. It’s expected the drugmaker could seek emergency authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration for that group in the first half of 2021.

Earlier this month, a top Israeli health official said no significant side effects had been seen among 600 children between ages 12 and 16 in at-risk groups who were given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The Health Ministry has recommended vaccinating some teenagers age 12-15 against COVID-19 if they suffer from specific underlying conditions that put them in increased danger.

Infection among children and school reopenings were a central concern during Israel’s third-wave virus outbreak. Children represented a larger proportion of infections than earlier in the pandemic, possibly due to new virus variants and the fact that a significant percentage of adults have been vaccinated.

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