By Reuters Staff
(Reuters Health) - A large real-world study of the two-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has confirmed that it is highly effective at preventing hospitalizations, the need for intensive care and critical life support treatment among children aged 12 to 18.
The analysis -- using data from 31 hospitals in 23 U.S. states collected as the Delta variant was increasing the risk of serious illness in that age group -included 1,222 vaccinated and unvaccinated hospitalized adolescents.
Among the 445 children hospitalized for COVID-19, only 4% were fully vaccinated, whereas among children hospitalized for other reasons, 36% had been vaccinated.
Of 180 hospitalized COVID patients who ended up in the intensive care unit, only 2 had been fully vaccinated. Only 1 of the 127 children who were put on life support had been fully or partially vaccinated.
"Of the 13 patients who received extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and 7 who died, all were unvaccinated," the researchers said. "Vaccination averted nearly all life-threatening Covid-19 illness in this age group."
The team, led by Samantha Olson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the Pfizer vaccine was 94% effective at preventing hospitalizations, 98% effective against intensive care unit admissions and 98% effective against instances where the child would have needed to be put on life support.
The study was published online by The New England Journal of Medicine.
"These extremely encouraging data indicate that nearly all hospitalizations and deaths in this population could have been prevented by vaccination," said Dr. Kathryn Edwards of Nashville's Vanderbilt University Medical Center in a Journal editorial.
"However, it is distressing that less than 39% of the adolescents in the control group had been immunized against Covid-19, despite uniform eligibility and widespread vaccine access," she said, noting that nearly half the patients resided in southern states, where vaccination hesitancy has been high.
"Although these rates have increased somewhat since the data in this study were compiled, as of December 1, 2021, only 60% of U.S. adolescents had received a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and only 50% had been fully vaccinated," Dr. Edwards said.
As of two days before Christmas, COVID had infected 7.5 million U.S. children, with 721 deaths.
Children aged 12 and over have been eligible for vaccination since May. Children age 5 and over have been eligible since October 29.
SOURCES: https://bit.ly/3fewfsf and https://bit.ly/3Fjdajn The New England Journal of Medicine, online January 12, 2022.