Emergency use authorization for teens could be weeks away for Moderna.By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Moderna has announced its COVID-19 vaccine is 96% effective in children 12 to 17.

“A 96% efficacy rate is not only great for COVID-19 vaccines but great news really for any vaccine,” said Dr. Marc Itskowitz, a primary care internist at the Allegheny Health Network.

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“Kids are very good at mounting immune responses,” said AHN Pediatric Alliance pediatrician Dr. Joe Aracri. “If an elderly population did well with the vaccine, we knew that the younger population would also do well with that vaccine.”

More than 3,000 kids in this age group participated in Phase 2 clinical trials. The shots were well-tolerated with no serious side effects, only the typical injection site soreness, fatigue, headache and muscle aches lasting about a day.

“Three-thousand people by itself is not a lot. But coming on the heels of 100s or millions of doses, where we’ve seen good safety data, I think we can be confident that the safety data will hold up with this as well,” Dr. Itskowitz said.

Emergency use authorization for teens could be weeks away for Moderna, but even sooner for Pfizer — as early as next week.

“We’re going to look at jump-starting by having large events, just to start with. But our eventual goal is to move it into pediatric offices,” said Dr. Aracri.

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The vaccine events will target not only the kids but the whole family. For pediatricians, the summer break will be busy.

“That’s our checkup season,” Dr. Aracri said. “So that’s why we’re trying to go with the strategy of moving it into our pediatric offices, where we’re going to be seeing a ton of kids, especially adolescents.”

Whether the immunization will be required for school, Dr. Aracri says it’s too soon to say.

“I think it’s going to be required for a number of colleges, we’re seeing that already. But as far as high schools, not sure where they’re going to go with that,” said Dr. Aracri.

“If we can focus our attention on adolescents and teenagers, we can significantly improve the overall vaccination rate,” added Dr. Itskowitz.

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Currently, Moderna’s vaccine is available under emergency use authorization for those 18 and older. The company plans to apply for full FDA approval for adults later this month.

Dr. Maria Simbra