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Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine works for adolescents, U.S. CDC panel told By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Tami Chappell/File Photo

By Michael Erman and Manojna Maddipatla

(Reuters) – The United States should begin vaccinating adolescents with the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer (NYSE:) and BioNTech, advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were told on Wednesday, ahead of a vote awaited by states ready to start inoculating younger people.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized the vaccine for children aged 12 to 15, offering relief to parents eager to get their children back to schools and summer camps. Some states, including Georgia, Delaware and Arkansas, began offering the vaccine to younger teens on Tuesday.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) provides recommendations to the CDC that many states will consider as they begin administering the two-shot vaccine to adolescents this week.

A working group concluded that benefits of the vaccine clearly outweigh risks and recommended the vaccine in a presentation to the meeting.

No one in the age group who received the vaccine in a clinical study got COVID-19, and there were no cases of Bell’s Palsy or severe allergic reactions, according to the working group presentation, which confirmed previous data.

About a third of all Americans have been fully-vaccinated according to the CDC data. But the pace of vaccination has slowed in the recent weeks.

The rollout of a vaccine for adolescents should help further limit the spread of the virus at a time when more contagious variants are circulating, and could shorten the road to normalcy for Americans.

“I think we should be in full school, full in-person school, in the fall,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a CNBC health summit on Tuesday.

Children have been considered by health officials as being at a lower risk for severe COVID-19, but they can still spread the virus. More than 1.5 million cases have been reported among 12- to 17-year-olds, and as more adults become vaccinated, adolescents are accounting for a higher proportion of total cases.

Adjusted for underreporting, the working group estimated 22.2 million U.S. COVID-19 infections in those aged 5 to 17.

Pfizer is running a separate trial testing the vaccine in children as young as 6-months-old, and has said it expects data on its use in 2- to 11-year-olds in September. The 2,260 participants in the 12-to-15 age group – half of whom were given placebo – were tested as an expansion of Pfizer’s more than 46,000-person trial.

The committee will hear from Pfizer about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy in adolescents and will consider the views of a handful of CDC officials on its implementation.

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