Early controlled clinical trials showed the two-dose Pfizer coronavirus vaccine offered strong protection against COVID-19 hospitalization in children, but little has been known about how well the shots work in the real world.
A new study published Oct. 19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers more good news.
Research on more than 460 hospitalized people between 12 and 18 years old found that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine were 93% effective against COVID-19 hospitalization during June to September, when the highly infectious delta variant was spreading.
Among the total, 179 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, while 285 others were hospitalized for other reasons, some of whom were sick with coronavirus-related symptoms but tested negative. Patients’ median age was 15 and the majority had at least one underlying condition, including obesity.
Of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients, six people were fully vaccinated and 173 were unvaccinated, or 97%.
A total of 77 of the hospitalized coronavirus patients were admitted to the intensive care unit, 29 were considered critically ill and received life support, such as mechanical ventilation, and two died.
All of the severely sick COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated, according to the study.
No vaccinated people between 12 and 18 years old were admitted to the ICU or died from COVID-19.
Researchers say their findings show the Pfizer vaccine is extremely effective at preventing hospitalization in kids and young adults. It’s the only vaccine authorized for use in children ages 12 and older as of Oct. 19. Kids are not yet allowed to receive Pfizer booster shots.
“These data suggest that increasing vaccination coverage among this group could reduce the incidence of severe COVID-19 in the United States,” the researchers said. “Further, as in-person school attendance increases, multicomponent preventive measures to reduce the incidence of severe COVID-19 among adolescents, including vaccination, are imperative.”
Early September marked the highest level of pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began, according to the CDC, due in part to the delta variant.
A separate CDC study released in September found that weekly COVID-19 hospitalization rates among unvaccinated kids and teens between 12 and 17 years old were 10 times higher than those among the fully vaccinated, suggesting COVID-19 vaccines are highly protective against severe illness.
Nearly 6.2 million children have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Oct. 14, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported. About 131,000 child cases were added in the last week, which is the sixth consecutive week that number has decreased from the pandemic peak.
A high of 252,000 child coronavirus cases were added the week of Sept. 2.
Experts with the American Academy of Pediatrics say 131,000 cases “remains an extremely high number of newly diagnosed children.”
About 46% of kids ages 12-15 and 54% of those between 16 and 17 years old were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Oct. 18, according to the CDC.
Nineteen pediatric hospitals in 16 states were involved in the study, including Children’s Mercy Kansas City in Missouri, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Children’s Hospital, Texas Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in California.