The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on November 25 that its human medicines committee had recommended granting an extension of indication for the Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty to include use in children aged five to 11.
The vaccine, developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, is already approved for use in adults and children aged 12 and above.
The EMA said that in children from five to 11 years of age, the dose of Comirnaty will be lower than that used in people aged 12 and above (10 µg compared with 30 µg). As in the older age group, it is given as two injections in the muscles of the upper arm, three weeks apart.
A main study in children aged five to 11 showed that the immune response to Comirnaty given at a lower dose (10 µg) in this age group was comparable to that seen with the higher dose (30 µg) in 16- to 25-year-olds (as measured by the level of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2).
The efficacy of Comirnaty was calculated in almost 2000 children from five to 11 years of age who had no sign of previous infection. These children received either the vaccine or a placebo (a dummy injection).
Of the 1305 children receiving the vaccine, three developed Covid-19 compared with 16 out of the 663 children who received a placebo. This means that, in this study, the vaccine was 90.7 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19, although the true rate could be between 67.7 per cent and 98.3 per cent, the EMA said.
The most common side effects in children aged five to 11 are similar to those in people aged 12 and above. They include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, redness and swelling at the site of injection, muscle pain and chills. These effects are usually mild or moderate and improve within a few days of vaccination, the agency said.
The EMA said that the human medicines committee concluded that the benefits of Comirnaty in children aged five to 11 outweigh the risks, particularly in those with conditions that increase the risk of severe Covid-19.
The safety and efficacy of the vaccine in both children and adults will continue to be monitored closely as it is used in vaccination campaigns in EU member states through the EU pharmacovigilance system and ongoing and additional studies conducted by the company and by European authorities, the agency said.
The human medicines committee will now send its recommendation to the European Commission, which will issue a final decision, the EMA said.
(Photo: EC Audiovisual Service)
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