The World Health Organization's advisory panel on Friday recommended extending the use of a reduced dosage of Pfizer and German partner BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 5 to 11 years old.
The recommendation comes after the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunisation held a meeting on Wednesday to evaluate the companies' vaccine. The vaccine is currently recommended for use in people aged 12 years and above.
The recommended dosage for the younger population is 10 micrograms instead of 30 micrograms offered to those 12 years and older.
"This age group (5-11) is in the lowest priority use group for vaccination except for children who have co-morbidities," SAGE chairman Alejandro Cravioto said.
The panel also recommended that booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine should be administered 4 to 6 months after the completion of the primary series, in high-priority groups like older adults and health workers.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.