(NewsNation Now) — Moderna said Tuesday its COVID-19 vaccine strongly protects kids as young as 12, a step that could put the shot on track to become the second option for that age group in the United States.
With global vaccine supplies still tight, much of the world is struggling to vaccinate adults in the quest to end the pandemic. But earlier this month, the U.S. and Canada authorized another vaccine for kids — the shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech — to be used starting at age 12.
Moderna aims to be next in line, saying it will submit its teen data to the Food and Drug Administration and other global regulators early next month. The Moderna vaccine was the second vaccine approved for adults in the U.S. and use a double-dose of messenger RNA technology to produce antibodies.
Moderna studied more than 3,700 12- to 17-year-olds. The main goal was to produce an immune response on par with that seen in the company’s large, Phase 3 trial in adults, which was 94.1% effective at preventing COVID-19.
There were no COVID-19 diagnoses in those given two doses of the Moderna vaccine compared with four cases among kids given dummy shots. In a press release, the company also said the vaccine appeared 93% effective two weeks after the first dose.
Preliminary findings showed the vaccine triggered the same signs of immune protection in kids as it does in adults, and the same kind of temporary side effects such as sore arms, headache and fatigue.
Most children with COVID-19 develop only mild symptoms or no symptoms. Yet children remain at risk of becoming seriously ill, and they can spread the virus. Widely vaccinating 12- to 18-year olds could allow schools and summer camps to relax masking and social distancing measures suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are encouraged that mRNA-1273 was highly effective at preventing COVID-19 in adolescents,” Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive, said in a statement.
While children are far less likely than adults to get seriously ill from COVID-19, they represent about 14% of the nation’s coronavirus cases. At least 316 have died in the U.S. alone, according to a tally by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
With plenty of vaccine supply in the U.S., younger teens flocked to get Pfizer’s shot in the days after FDA opened it to them, part of a push to get as many kids vaccinated as possible before the next school year.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have begun testing in even younger children, from age 11 down to 6-month-old babies. This testing is more complex: Teens receive the same dose as adults, but researchers are testing smaller doses in younger children. Experts hope to see some results in the fall.
Moderna said it plans to submit the data to a peer-reviewed publication.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden urged parents to get their children vaccinated.
“The bottom line is this: the vaccine for kids between the ages of 12- to 15- years-old are safe, effective, easy, fast, and free. My hope is that parents will take advantage of the vaccine and get their kids vaccinated,” said Biden.
Biden earlier this month announced his administration’s new goal of 70% of American adults getting at least one vaccine dose and 160 million being fully vaccinated by July 4.
More than 25 states have fully vaccinated at least 50% of their adult population, according to data published by the CDC.
About 130.6 million people, or 39.3% of the U.S. population, have been fully inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer Inc/ BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson, according to CDC data. 49.4% of the U.S. population, or 163.9 million adults had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.