Positive news comes from Pfizer this week as they announced the Phase 3 study of their Covid-19 vaccine prevented symptomatic disease and was well-tolerated by adolescents ages 12 to 15. The BNT162b2 vaccine demonstrated 100% efficacy and robust antibody responses. Trials have also been initiated for the use of the vaccine in children 6 months to 11 years of age.
The Pfizer trial enrolled 2,260 adolescents 12 to 15 years of age in the United States. In the trial, 18 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group and none were observed in the vaccinated group. Vaccination with BNT162b2 elicited SARS-CoV-2–neutralizing antibody geometric mean titers (GMTs) of 1,239.5, demonstrating strong immunogenicity in a subset of adolescents one month after the second dose. Pfizer will now move quickly to provide this data to the FDA and the European Medicines Agency as soon as possible to request expansion of the Emergency Use Authorization and EU Conditional Marketing Authorization for BNT162b2.
This news is particularly important as a new study demonstrates that reopening schools in the UK is one factor slowing the steady decline in UK coronavirus cases in recent weeks. Data released by the Office for National Statistics last week found that infection levels were mostly even across England compared to the week before, at 1 in 340 people. However, the main exception to this trend was a rise among school children, especially those in secondary education. The findings show a slight rise in children testing positive in years 7-11, from 0.31% the previous week to 0.43% this week. However, in primary schools the trend among younger children is less certain and much flatter, and in children in year 12 and upwards, the ONS estimates that infections fell. In Scotland, infection rates were found to have risen by 14 percent to 1 in 240 people, where schools started to reopen two weeks before England.
As always we must observe trends occurring abroad and treat them as a warning for what could occur in the U.S. Schools are reopening in most states in the US on the precipice of a potential fourth wave. Teachers are not required to be vaccinated to return to in-person teaching and currently, only 15.8% of the U.S. Population is vaccinated. The mingling of teachers and students from different environments is likely to cause an increase in infections similar to UK schools, but the question remains how much.