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Study by Pfizer finds its COVID jab 73.2% efficient in children

A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at a vaccination center in Santiago on Jan 20, 2022. (JAVIER TORRES / AFP)

MEXICO CITY / TUNIS / BERLIN /PRAGUE – The COVID-19 vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer provides 73.2 percent protection for young children aged six months to four years, according to a study published by the vaccine makers on Tuesday.

Three doses of three micrograms each provide infants with a "high level of protection at a time when the Omicron BA.2 strain is highly prevalent," said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech.

German vaccine developer BioNTech and its US partner Pfizer are also developing a bivalent vaccine for this age group which is adapted to the current Omicron BA.4/BA.5 subvariants, said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech

German vaccine developer BioNTech and its US partner Pfizer are also developing a bivalent vaccine for this age group which is adapted to the current Omicron BA.4/BA.5 subvariants, Sahin added.

On Monday, the companies filed an application with the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval for their adapted vaccine for children aged 12 and over.

"Having rapidly scaled up production, we are in a position to immediately begin distribution of the bivalent Omicron BA.4/BA.5 boosters, if authorized, to help protect individuals and families as we prepare for potential fall and winter surges," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said.

Meanwhile, the companies' filing with the European Medicines Agency is expected to be completed in the next few days. "Given the ongoing evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, it's of great importance that vaccines can be rapidly adapted to the major circulating Omicron lineages," Sahin emphasized.

Germany's Standing Commission on Vaccination currently only recommends vaccination against COVID-19 for children aged over five. In the age group up to 11, STIKO said healthy children should receive one dose, while those at an increased health risk or with high-risk-contact should receive two.

Of the 5.3 million children aged between five and 11 in Germany, 22.6 percent have had at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19. Meanwhile, of the 69.4 million adults in the country aged 18 or over, 85.3 percent are vaccinated against COVID-19, according to official figures. 

A woman wearing a face mask walks to get tested for COVID-19 at a sampling station in Prague, Czech Republic, Sept 18, 2020. (PETR DAVID JOSEK / AP)

Czech Republic

The Czech Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday that it has reached an agreement with the drug company Pfizer on supplies of antiviral drug Paxlovid used to treat COVID-19.

According to the ministry, the supply should be sufficient for the expected autumn wave and the first shipments will arrive in September.

"I am very happy that we will soon be able to offer another fully reimbursed and highly effective antiviral drug against COVID-19 to all Czech patients who need it. The pandemic is not over yet. COVID is a deadly disease for which we must be prepared," said Minister of Health Vlastimil Valek in a statement.

This file photo taken on June 11, 2021 shows the entrance of the European Medicines Agency headquarters in Amsterdam. (FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS / AFP)

EU

The European Medicines Agency will hold an extraordinary meeting on Sept 1 to discuss applications from Moderna and Pfizer for vaccine boosters modified to target the Omicron variant, the regulator said on Tuesday.

The new so-called bivalent shots combat the BA.1-subvariant of Omicron and the original virus first detected in China.

Britain earlier this month became the first country to clear Moderna's shot, which is also the world's first bivalent vaccine.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gets a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 at the presidential palace in Mexico City, April 20, 2021. (FERNANDO LLANO / AP)

Maxico

The United Nations-backed COVAX vaccine program has offered Mexico 10 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 shots for children after the country's president vowed to complain to the UN over delays, a senior Mexican official said on Tuesday.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador this week said Mexico was owed $75 million after it received less than half the 52 million vaccine doses it was allocated under the COVAX program, which aims to distribute shots equitably worldwide. 

ALSO READ: US CDC recommends Novavax's COVID shot for adolescents

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, which backs COVAX along with the World Health Organization, said its offer had now been accepted following months of talks with Mexican authorities.

"These doses are available now, and can be shipped by the manufacturer as and when Mexico is able to receive them," a GAVI spokesperson said.

Earlier, Mexico's coronavirus czar Hugo Lopez-Gatell said it was "essential" the doses arrive by September.

Moderna

Moderna Inc on Tuesday sought US authorization for its COVID-19 booster shot tailored against the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron and said if cleared it would be ready to deliver the doses in September.

Its application with the US Food and Drug Administration is based on pre-clinical data for the so-called bivalent dose that contains the dominant BA.4/BA.5 variants along with the original coronavirus strain.

Moderna said a mid-to-late stage trial for the vaccine is under way.

A medical technician displays a rapid  COVID-19 test kit at a mobile testing site in Tunis, Tunisia, Dec 22, 2020. (HASSENE DRIDI / AP)

Tunisia

Tunisian Health Minister Ali Mrabet said the World Health Organization supports Tunisia's efforts to manufacture the COVID-19 vaccine locally, the Tunis Afrique Presse reported Tuesday.

During the meeting with WHO representative in Tunisia Ibrahim Zik, Mrabet promised that his ministry "is working in partnership with all the parties involved to make the vaccine project a success in Tunisia with the WHO support."

The two also discussed the ways to combat tobacco consumption and addiction in Tunisia, the TAP report said.