TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – Sinovac said its COVID-19 vaccine is safe in children ages 3 to 17, according to preliminary data, and has forwarded the data to Chinese drug regulators.
More than 70 million injections of the Sinovac vaccine have been given worldwide, including in China.
China has approved its use in adults, but it has not yet been used in children, because their immune systems may respond differently to the vaccine.
Early and mid-stage clinical trials with more than 550 subjects showed that the vaccine would induce an immune response, Gang Zeng, Sinovac’s chief medical officer, said at a news conference on Monday.
Two recipients developed a high fever in response to the vaccine, one 3 years old and the other 6 years old. The rest of the trial subjects experienced mild symptoms, Zeng said.
“It is very welcome to demonstrate that the vaccine is safe and would elicit a potentially useful immune response against SARS-CoV-2,” said Eng Eong Ooi, a professor at the Duke NUS School of Medicine in Singapore, who is co-leading the development of a Vaccine for COVID-19. However, he said that the data publicly presented by the company was not sufficient to provide a conclusive answer on the findings.
Children are much less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19, but they are still at risk and can transmit the virus. And while vaccination campaigns around the world have focused on adults, children will need to be vaccinated to end the pandemic.
The Pfizer vaccine is licensed for use from the age of 16 and is being studied between the ages of 12 and 16. Moderna has been studying its vaccine in children older than 12 years, and last week announced a new study testing its use in children younger than 12 years.
State-owned Sinopharm, which has two COVID-19 vaccines, is also investigating the effectiveness of its vaccines in children. The company said in January that it had submitted clinical data to regulators, although it was unclear whether it was for one or both vaccines.