Medical experts and regulators have approved the use of Covid-19 vaccines on children between the ages of 4 and 12..
Qatar is set to receive its first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11 years in January, a senior health official has announced.
Speaking to Qatar TV, Sidra Medicine’s Chief of Paediatric Infectious Disease and Medical Director of Outpatient Clinics, Dr Mohammad Janahi called on the community to vaccinate their children once the campaign kicks off.
He stated that studies have shown that children from 5-11 contribute to 63 percent of Covid-19 transmissions, especially among unvaccinated people.
A medical officer with the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier that over 1.9 million children aged 5 to 11 have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic first started, and more than 8,400 have been hospitalised, NBC News reported.
Children hospitalised due to the virus are reportedly more likely to be admitted to intensive care and in most cases require ventilators – than children hospitalised with flu, a medical official from the CDC has stated.
Infected kids are also at risk of developing a rare inflammatory condition called multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).
For this reason, health officials say, it is essential to ensure children are vaccinated for everyone’s safety and fasten the process of returning to pre-covid life.
“The vaccine is safe and effective for kids and no unusual symptoms were detected during studies, only minor side effects were reported,” he confirmed in the TV show.
Al Janahi also explained that the dose given to the age group is smaller than that given to adults.
“With regard to vaccination with Pfizer for age group of 5 to 11 years, the dose has been reduced to one third. For example, from the age of 12 years and above, they are given 30 micrograms, and 5-11 years are given only 10 micrograms,” he explained.
In September, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced positive results from Phase 2/3 trials showing administering a smaller dose of the Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective on children aged 5 to 11 years.
The pharmaceutical giant said in its latest report that the results of the trial showed a “favourable safety profile and robust neutralising antibody responses in children 5 to 11 years of age using a two-dose regimen of 10 µg administered 21 days apart, a smaller dose than the 30 µg dose used for people 12 and older.
“The 10 µg dose was carefully selected as the preferred dose for safety, tolerability and immunogenicity in children 5 to 11 years of age. These are the first results from a pivotal trial of a Covid-19 vaccine in this age group.”
The data, provided based on more than 2,200 children, was submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other health regulators for the green light.
In November, the FDA approved the emergency use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for children aged 5 to 11; allowing Qatar to place an order for the first batch of the vaccine.
Dr. Laith Abu-Raddad, Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar, Cornell University, stressed that this will allow Qatar to expand its national vaccination campaign by protecting children as well as the education system from the novel coronavirus.
“The education system was the most affected by this pandemic so this decision will help the society as a whole.”
“As a mother and a physician, I know that parents, caregivers, school staff and children have been waiting for today’s authorisation. Vaccinating younger children against Covid-19 will bring us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement announcing the approval.
Addressing concerns over the safety of the vaccine, Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said “we are confident in the safety, effectiveness and manufacturing data behind this authorisation.”
In addition, infectious disease experts welcomed the decision.
“It’s an incredibly important tool in the return to normalcy,” Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and a leader of the Covid-19 Prevention Network, told the New York Times.
“To be able to know that your child is protected and not going to get severely ill by going to school is an incredible psychological relief.”
Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine is almost 91% effective in preventing symptomatic illness in younger children with no unexpected side-effects, according to a study released by the FDA.
“Overall, it is very promising news that the FDA has decided to approve the vaccine, allowing parents to collectively breathe a sigh of relief. The bottom line is that they can now extend this much needed protection to their children and families as a whole,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health announced on Sunday that all individuals who received the second COVID-19 vaccine dose at least six months ago are now eligible for a booster shot.
Earlier clinical trials showed that the booster shot should be administered to those eligible eight months after receiving the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
However, as increasing scientific evidence shows that for most people, protective immunity obtained from the primary two vaccine doses gradually starts to decline after six months of administration, MoPH took the decision to reduce the duration between the administration of the second dose and the booster shot.
“All individuals who meet the new criteria are now eligible for the COVID-19 booster vaccine, regardless of age, and are encouraged not to delay their appointment to ensure they continue to have high levels of protection against COVID-19,” the ministry said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Qatar recorded 146 new infections, raising the number of active cases to 1,713. So far, 611 people have died of Covid-19 in Qatar.