Pfizer’s vaccine gives older kids strong protection from COVID-19

The vaccine maker has had multiple wins in its most recent clinical trials.
Sticker on laptop that says "I've had my COVID vaccination"
The Pfizer vaccine is also highly effective for six months after the final shot. Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Click here to see all of PopSci’s COVID-19 coverage.

While we learn more and more about how vaccines work in different populations, there’s still a long road ahead to get back to normal life. And while some countries, the US included, are on the right track to getting people vaccinated across the board, some regions are still struggling to get needles into arms. 

Here’s what to know this week. 

The Pfizer vaccine is “powerfully protective” against COVID-19 in children

What we know about COVID-19 vaccines for the past couple of months has been confined largely to adults, but as of yesterday, new reports have found that the Pfizer vaccine is effective in children, and perhaps even more effective in them than their adult counterparts. In a recent clinical trial that included more than 2,000 vaccinated children aged 12 to 15, no symptomatic infections were found. 

“Oh my god, I’m so happy to see this — this is amazing,” Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, told The New York Times. While some data has shown that vaccinating adults can bring down cases significantly, eventually for full herd immunity children also must be part of that equation. Last week, Pfizer began their clinical tests on children between the ages of five and 11, with plans for younger kids in trials in the coming weeks. 

The Pfizer vaccine is also effective against the South African variant

One of the spookier elements of the battle with COVID-19 has been the emergence of variants—some of which have caused reason to believe that these variants from the original strain cause people to get sicker or be more infectious. Along with those concerns, scientists have raised the alarm that tougher variants may be able to evade the impacts of current vaccines. 

Luckily, research out today has shown that in clinical trials of 12,000 people, the Pfizer vaccine is effective against the South African variant and can give lasting protection for six months after the second dose without any serious safety concerns. 

“It is an important step to further confirm the strong efficacy and good safety data we have seen so far,” Ugur Sahin, the CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, the company that has been partnering with Pfizer in the development and production of the two-shot vaccine, told NBC News. “These data also provide the first clinical results that a vaccine can effectively protect against currently circulating variants, a critical factor to reach herd immunity and end this pandemic for the global population.”

The WHO is calling Europe’s vaccine rollout “unacceptably slow”

In the US, there’s a decent chance you know someone who has already received the vaccine, and within the next month or so everyone in most parts of the country will have access to it as well. Across the Atlantic, however, things aren’t going as swimmingly. Cases are rising in every age group except elderly people and vaccination campaigns have hit many road bumps. According to a WHO statement, only 10 percent of Europe’s total population has received 1 vaccine dose, and four percent has completed a full vaccine series. In comparison, 15 percent of the US population has been fully vaccinated.

“Vaccines present our best way out of this pandemic,” Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe said in the statement. “Not only do they work, they are also highly effective in preventing infection. However, the roll-out of these vaccines is unacceptably slow.”

Europe is currently the second-most COVID-19 affected region in the world with cases close to surpassing 45 million, according to the BBC. 

102 vaccinated people in Washington have caught COVID-19, but that’s to be expected

Nothing is ever 100 percent effective, and that still rings true for the COVID-19 vaccine. Local epidemiologists reported this week that out of the 1,000,000 fully vaccinated Washingtonians, 102 individuals have still tested positive for the virus. And while that may sound alarming, this number represents a tiny 0.01 percent of the vaccinated population.

Still, most of the breakthrough cases only amounted to mild symptoms. Only eight individuals were hospitalized, and two patients over the age of 80 with underlying conditions died, according to a local ABC affiliate. 

“Finding evidence of vaccine breakthrough cases reminds us that, even if you have been vaccinated, you still need to wear a mask, practice socially distancing, and wash your hands to prevent spreading COVID-19 to others who have not been vaccinated,” Umair Shah, Washington state’s secretary of health, said in a statement.