Infants as young as six months may soon be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination for the first time, as critical pharmacological trials continue. The majority of children under the age of five are still unvaccinated after more than two years of the outbreak.

Children as young as three years old can be immunised with a Sinopharm injection in China and the United Arab Emirates. Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, two companies that have played important roles in global immunisation efforts, are going ahead with plans to create vaccines for younger age groups.

Why are under-5 immunizations rare?

Before delivering vaccines to children, manufacturers test them on adults to guarantee that they are safe and effective. Following the rapid spread of COVID-19, the elderly and the most vulnerable members of society became a top priority.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved in November and has been available to children over the age of 12 for one year and to children over the age of 5 in the UAE since early February. Several setbacks have impeded trials involving the tiniest babies, in part due to the impact of the Omicron strain on efficacy.

In children, COVID is often a benign condition, though some develop severe symptoms. Omicron has been linked to an increase in paediatric hospitalizations in numerous countries, including the United States, where a study found that the variant caused three times as many hospital admissions as earlier strains.

Despite fewer fatalities, children under the age of four were admitted to hospitals at around five times the rate of those infected during the Delta wave, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Where are the current trials being held?

Moderna has already supplied information about its vaccines for children aged six months to five years to the US Food and Drug Administration.

In clinical trials, the vaccination was found to be around 51% effective against disease in infants under the age of two, and 37% effective in children aged two to five. Although this may appear to be a little amount, the immune-evasive Omicron variation reduced the effectiveness of all vaccines.

Pfizer plans to share data from a three-dose vaccine experiment for children aged 6 months to 4 years with the FDA this week. It had planned to submit a request for authorization for a two-shot course in February, but the vaccine’s developers decided to wait for results on a three-shot course instead. This information was released this week.

What did the Pfizer experiment reveal?

According to Pfizer, the vaccine produced a significant immunological response with a safety profile comparable to a placebo after the third dosage. The vaccine was effective in 80.3 percent of symptomatic patients, albeit this figure is based on only 10 cases, so it could vary.

Furthermore, the trial protocol requires a formal analysis seven days following the third dose, when at least 21 cases have occurred. Pfizer stated that conclusive vaccination efficacy data will be made accessible as soon as it is available.

When will there be a decision?

On June 15, the FDA will hold a meeting to discuss both children’s immunizations. Because there is a two-month gap between the second and third doses, experts believe that young children in the United States might be fully vaccinated with Moderna by late July or late September if the vaccine is approved soon.

When will the United Arab Emirates be able to obtain vaccines?

At the moment, this is unknown. If the pattern holds for vaccines for children aged 5 to 11, the UAE might approve the doses within days if the US does.

They may, however, not be instantly available. Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations are given to children aged 5 and up over three months.

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