Skip to main content
Move the World.
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine adolescents

Lead Image © Klavdiyav / Adobe Stock

When the FDA authorized Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in December, it did so with one caveat: people had to be at least 16 years old to get the shot.

That was because the original trial only tested the vaccine in people 16 and up — so we didn't know how well it would work in younger people.

But that's no longer the case.

Pfizer has just announced the results of a late-stage trial involving more than 2,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15, and the vaccine appears to be 100% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 — even better than the 95% it announced for older adults.

Vaccinate the Youth

In general, younger people are somewhat less likely to catch COVID-19 than older people. They're also less likely to have a severe case or die from the disease if they do catch it — but vaccinating them is still important.

Experts argue that in-person schooling is better for kids' mental, physical, and social health, but many schools have transitioned to remote learning to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — vaccinating adolescents could make it less risky for those schools to reopen.

Moreover, even if young people are generally less susceptible to COVID-19, some have health conditions that put them in the high-risk category — the vaccine could be literally life-saving for them.

On a broader level, the U.S. simply needs to vaccinate kids if it wants to reach herd immunity. That goal requires around 80% of the population to be immune to COVID-19 — and more than 22% of Americans are under the age of 18.

Even if every adult got vaccinated, the virus may continue to spread through young people, potentially allowing it to break through into older adults (since the vaccine isn't perfect) or evolve its way around the vaccine's protection.

Back to the FDA

According to Pfizer's announcement, only 18 of the adolescents in the trial contracted COVID-19 — and all of them were in the placebo group.

The vaccine was also well-tolerated, with side effects comparable to those experienced by people between the ages of 16 and 25.

"The hope is to be vaccinating this age group before the start of the next school year."

Albert Bourla

The results of the trial have yet to be published in a scientific journal, but the FDA will independently re-analyze the data when Pfizer applies for authorization for the 12-15 age group.

If approved, the vaccine would become available for over 20 million adolescents in that age group, according to the U.S. Census.

"We share the urgency to expand the authorization of our vaccine to use in younger populations and are encouraged by the clinical trial data from adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in the announcement.

"We plan to submit these data to FDA as a proposed amendment to our Emergency Use Authorization in the coming weeks and to other regulators around the world, with the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year."

We'd love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or if you have a tip for a future Freethink story, please email us at [email protected].

Up Next

If you want to understand a problem, talk to the people working on solutions. Join us as we meet the people and explore the ideas on the frontlines of an unprecedented global response.

Public Health
What Is Protecting Kids Against the Coronavirus?
children coronavirus
Public Health
What Is Protecting Kids Against the Coronavirus?
Something is protecting kids against the coronavirus, and researchers want to figure out what it is so they can use it to develop a treatment.

Something is protecting kids against the coronavirus, and researchers want to figure out what it is so they can use it to develop a treatment.

Coronavirus
Cough-Analyzing AI Detects Asymptomatic COVID-19 Infections
Asymptomatic COVID-19 Infections
Coronavirus
Cough-Analyzing AI Detects Asymptomatic COVID-19 Infections
MIT has developed an AI that can detect asymptomatic COVID-19 infections from the sound of a person’s forced-cough with incredible accuracy.

MIT has developed an AI that can detect asymptomatic COVID-19 infections from the sound of a person’s forced-cough with incredible accuracy.

Coronavirus
Comparing COVID-19 Vaccines Just Got Way Easier
compare covid-19 vaccines
Coronavirus
Comparing COVID-19 Vaccines Just Got Way Easier
A newly formed network of labs will make it easier to compare COVID-19 vaccines by testing them all in exactly the same way, using the exact same supplies.

A newly formed network of labs will make it easier to compare COVID-19 vaccines by testing them all in exactly the same way, using the exact same supplies.

Coronavirus
Disinfecting Drones to Spray Stadium After NFL Games
disinfecting drones
Coronavirus
Disinfecting Drones to Spray Stadium After NFL Games
Are the disinfecting drones set to fly over Mercedes-Benz Stadium after Atlanta Falcons games useful or just another example of hygiene theater?

Are the disinfecting drones set to fly over Mercedes-Benz Stadium after Atlanta Falcons games useful or just another example of hygiene theater?

Coronavirus
Researchers Found Tiny COVID-19 Antibodies In An Alpaca
nanobodies
Coronavirus
Researchers Found Tiny COVID-19 Antibodies In An Alpaca
Inside an alpaca’s blood, researchers have found tiny antibodies — nanobodies — that may lead to future antiviral medications.

Inside an alpaca’s blood, researchers have found tiny antibodies — nanobodies — that may lead to future antiviral medications.

Coronavirus
Robots Are Running COVID-19 Drug Development
COVID-19 Drug Development
Coronavirus
Robots Are Running COVID-19 Drug Development
IBM’s new online platform, RoboRXN, combines artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and robotics to automate the COVID-19 drug development process.

IBM’s new online platform, RoboRXN, combines artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and robotics to automate the COVID-19 drug development process.

Public Health
Modifying the Measles Vaccine Could Stop the Coronavirus Faster
Stop the Coronavirus
Public Health
Modifying the Measles Vaccine Could Stop the Coronavirus Faster
To stop the coronavirus from spreading, researchers are working on a vaccine that would use the measles vaccine as its delivery vehicle.

To stop the coronavirus from spreading, researchers are working on a vaccine that would use the measles vaccine as its delivery vehicle.

Public Health
Contact-Tracing Apps Could Help End Coronavirus Lockdown
Contact-Tracing Apps
Public Health
Contact-Tracing Apps Could Help End Coronavirus Lockdown
A new University of Oxford study found that contact-tracing apps could help bring the coronavirus pandemic to an end without violating citizens' rights.

A new University of Oxford study found that contact-tracing apps could help bring the coronavirus pandemic to an end without violating citizens' rights.

Public Health
Bill Gates Is Spending Billions to Produce 7 Coronavirus Vaccines
coronavirus vaccines
Public Health
Bill Gates Is Spending Billions to Produce 7 Coronavirus Vaccines
The Gates Foundation is building factories to manufacture seven promising coronavirus vaccines to prepare for mass production if any prove effective.

The Gates Foundation is building factories to manufacture seven promising coronavirus vaccines to prepare for mass production if any prove effective.