Moderna said on Tuesday that its coronavirus vaccine, authorized only for use in adults, was powerfully effective in 12- to 17-year-olds, and that it planned to apply to the Food and Drug Administration in June for authorization to use the vaccine in adolescents.
If approved, its vaccine would become the second Covid-19 vaccine available to U.S. adolescents. Federal regulators authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month for 12- to 15-year-olds.
The Pfizer shot was initially authorized for use in people 16 and older, while Moderna’s has been available for those 18 and up.
Proof of the vaccines’ efficacy and safety for adolescents is helping school officials and other leaders as they plan for the fall. On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that all public school students in New York City, the largest school system in the United States, would return to in-person learning in the fall.
The Moderna results, which the company announced in a statement, are based on a clinical trial that enrolled 3,732 people ages 12 to 17, two-thirds of whom received two vaccine doses. There were no cases of symptomatic Covid-19 in fully vaccinated adolescents, the company reported. That translates to an efficacy of 100 percent, the same figure that Pfizer and BioNTech reported in a trial of their vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds.
“These look like promising results,” said Dr. Kristin Oliver, a pediatrician and vaccine expert at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “The more vaccines we have to protect adolescents from Covid, the better.”
Moderna also reported that a single dose of its vaccine had 93 percent efficacy against symptomatic disease.
“Those cases that did occur between the two doses were mild, which is also a good indicator of protection against disease,” Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist at George Mason University, said in an email.
The side effects were consistent with what has been reported in adults: pain at the site of the injection, headache, fatigue, muscle pain and chills. “No significant safety concerns have been identified to date,” the company said.
The adolescents in the study will be monitored for a year after their second dose.
The results were announced in a news release that did not contain detailed data from the clinical trial. And Dr. Rasmussen said that the vaccines’ efficacy can be trickier to evaluate in children, who are less likely to develop symptomatic disease than adults.
Nevertheless, she said, the results are in line with what scientists expected and suggest “that adolescents respond to the vaccine comparably to adults who receive it.”
Moderna said it planned to submit the data for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
A new and potentially more contagious variant of the coronavirus has begun to outpace other versions of the virus in Britain, putting pressure on the government to shorten people’s wait for second doses of vaccines and illustrating the risks of a faltering global immunization drive.
The new variant, which has become dominant in India since first being detected there in December, may be responsible in part for a virus wave across South Asia.
Efforts to understand the variant picked up once it began spreading in Britain, one of at least 49 countries where it is present. Scientists there are sequencing half of all coronavirus cases.
The preliminary results out of Britain, drawn from a few thousand cases of the variant, contained both good and bad news, scientists said.
The variant, known by evolutionary biologists as B.1.617.2, is “highly likely” to be more transmissible than the variant behind Britain’s devastating wintertime surge, government scientists have said.
Helpfully for Britain and other wealthy nations, the variant has emerged at a less dire moment of the pandemic. More than four out of every five people in England above age 65 have been given both doses of a coronavirus vaccine, driving down hospitalizations and deaths.
And a new study by Public Health England offered reassuring signs that fully vaccinated people were well protected from the variant.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine offered 88 percent protection against the variant first sampled in India, only a slight drop from the 93 percent protection given against the variant from Britain, Public Health England said. The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine was 60 percent effective against the variant from India, compared with 66 percent against the one first seen in Britain.
Because people in Britain started receiving AstraZeneca’s vaccine later than Pfizer’s, they have been followed for a shorter period, meaning that the effectiveness figures for that vaccine may underestimate the true numbers, scientists said. Other studies in England have shown little to no difference between the effectiveness of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.
For now, a rise in cases of the variant from India has not caused an overall surge in the virus in Britain. And not all scientists are convinced that the variant is as contagious as feared. The true test will be whether it surges in other countries, especially those — unlike Britain — that are grappling with high case counts of other variants, Andrew Rambaut, a professor of molecular evolution at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, wrote on Twitter.
In Britain, part of its rapid growth may have to do with the particular places it was first introduced. Bolton, in northwestern England, where the new variant is most advanced, is a highly deprived area with tightly packed housing that could be hastening its spread, scientists said.
“We do not know if the increase in transmissibility is the result of specific mixing patterns, or super-spreading events,” a group of researchers led by Robert Challen of the University of Exeter reported on May 11, in a study that was among those presented to an influential government advisory group.
That government advisory body said several days later that it had “high confidence” that th
e variant first seen in India was indeed more contagious, warning that a “substantial resurgence of hospitalizations” was possible. It said that the variant was gaining a foothold in diverse parts of Britain where “contact patterns or behaviors” alone could not explain its spread.
Vaccine passports will not be at play in the state of Alabama.
On Monday, the state’s governor, Kay Ivey, signed into law legislation that bans government institutions, along with schools and private businesses, from refusing goods, services or admission to people because of their immunization status.
The law, which goes into immediate effect, says that state and local governments “may not issue vaccine or immunization passports, vaccine or immunization passes or any other standardized documentation for the purpose of certifying the immunization status of an individual.”
Under the law, educational institutions can still require students to prove their…