The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine will help children return to school. Photo: AFP / Jack Guez

Pfizer and BioNTech on Monday said trial results showed their coronavirus vaccine was safe and produced a robust immune response in children aged five to 11, adding that they would seek regulatory approval shortly.

The vaccine would be administered at a lower dosage than for people over 12, they said.

“In participants five to 11 years of age, the vaccine was safe, well tolerated and showed robust neutralizing antibody responses,” US giant Pfizer and its German partner said.

They plan to submit their data to regulatory bodies in the European Union, the United States and around the world as soon as possible.

The trial results are the first of their kind for children under 12, with a Moderna trial for 6 to 11-year-olds ongoing.

Pfizer and Moderna jabs are already being administered to adolescents over 12 and adults around the world.

Although children are considered less at risk of severe Covid, there are concerns that the highly contagious Delta variant could lead to more serious cases.

Innoculating children is also seen as key to keeping schools open and helping end the pandemic.

“We are eager to extend the protection afforded by the vaccine to this younger population,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, noting that “since July, paediatric cases of COVID-19 have risen by about 240 percent in the US”.

Pediatric Covid cases have risen by about 240 percent in the US since July. Photo: AFP

Children in the 5-11 age trial group got two doses of 10 micrograms in the trial, compared with 30 micrograms for older age groups, the companies said. The shots were given 21 days apart.

The 10 microgram dose was “carefully selected as the preferred dose for safety, tolerability and immunogenicity” for that age group, the statement said.

Side effects were “generally comparable to those observed in participants 16 to 25 years of age”, it added. 

Among the most commonly reported side effects in the past have been pain and swelling at the injection site as well as headache, chills and fever.

Israel has already given special authorization to vaccinate children aged 5-11 who are “at significant risk of serious illness or death” from Covid, using Pfizer at the lower dose.

Pfizer and BioNTech are also trialling their vaccine on infants aged six months to two years, and on children aged two to five.

The topline results for those trials are expected in the fourth quarter of this year, the companies said.

All together, up to 4,500 children aged six months to 11 years have enrolled in the Pfizer-BioNTech trials in the US, Finland, Poland and Spain.

Like its Moderna rival, the Pfizer jab is based on novel mRNA technology that delivers genetic instructions to cells to build the coronavirus spike protein, in order to evoke antibodies when bodies encounter the real virus.