On May 10, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorised Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty for adolescents aged 12 to 15 years. The decision was confirmed by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This makes Comirnaty the first Covid-19 vaccine available for this age group in the US, which includes more than 16 million teenagers. With this recommendation, Pfizer and BioNTech will be able to increase their market share even further and Comirnaty could establish itself as the primary vaccine for teenagers, as Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J’s) vaccines are currently only authorised for adults ages 18 years and older. Comirnaty accounts for 53.5% of all Covid-19 vaccine doses administered to date while Moderna accounts for 43% of all doses and J&J for 3.5%, according to data from the CDC. In a Phase III trial in ages 12 to 15 years, Comirnaty showed 100% vaccine efficacy while Moderna’s vaccine was 96% effective in a trial for ages 12 to 17 years. Moderna will apply for an updated authorisation for its vaccine later this month.
With the number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered per day in the US slowing down significantly as the number of individuals willing to be vaccinated decreases, the authorisation of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine for younger teenagers should get the vaccination effort back up to speed. Many teenagers will be eager to get back to school and meet friends and some parents might feel more comfortable allowing their children to do so if they are vaccinated. However, a lack of vaccine confidence is hindering immunisation efforts in adults and many parents might be hesitant to let their children get the vaccine, as children make up only a small percentage of severe Covid-19 cases. Children and teenagers are significant vectors of disease and can contract long-term negative effects even from asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections. However, if Covid-19 vaccines are made mandatory for schools and universities like other childhood or adolescent vaccines such as the measles or meningococcal vaccines, this age group will see a high vaccine uptake.
Key opinion leaders interviewed by GlobalData about Covid-19 vaccines were also excited about J&J’s vaccine for teenagers. Many teenagers do not have regularly scheduled appointments with doctors, so a single dose will be beneficial to confer immunity. Furthermore, as adverse events can be stronger in younger people, especially for the second dose of the mRNA vaccines, the single J&J dose will have another advantage in this low-risk age group in terms of the ratio of vaccine adverse events versus vaccination benefits.