Moderna COVID-19 vaccine could provide another effective tool to protect teens, experts say

Moderna says its vaccine is highly effective in protecting younger teens from 12 to 17 years old from developing symptoms of the coronavirus

The company plans to submit its study data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for review early next month.

Right now, the Pfizer vaccine is the only one approved for teens and tweens as young as 12.

If the FDA authorizes the Moderna vaccine for teens 12 to 17, Dr. Andi Shane, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Emory School of Medicine and medical director of infectious disease at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta says the US will have two similar tools to protect teens.

RELATED: US reaches 50% of adults fully vaccinated against COVID-19, CDC data says

"So, this really provides us hope for the summer season, for camps, for getting back to school," Dr. Shane says.

She likens to the vaccines, which both use mRNA technology to trigger an immune response and required two doses, to "Coke and Pepsi."

"They're basically the same, have the same effect, the same result, have very similar efficacies and safety profiles as we've seen in adults," Dr. Shane says. "What this does, though, is give us an opportunity to increase the supply of vaccines, especially in this age group." 

Moderna says its vaccine proved 100% effective in a clinical trial of nearly 4,000 young volunteers, with similar side effects to those seen in adults.

The promising news comes as the CDC is investigating a small number of reports of heart muscle inflammation, known as myocarditis, in teens and young adults.

The agency says most were male, and developed symptoms within four days of receiving their second dose of an mRNA vaccine.

Dr. Shane says they typically experienced chest pain.

"Some children have been hospitalized and have required anti-inflammatories, steroids and intravenous immunoglobulin, or other products that are used to help to decrease the inflammation," Shane says.  "The reassuring part of this is that most of the children have responded very well to very brief hospitalizations and anti-inflammatories and continue to do well."

The CDC has not linked the heart problems to the vaccine, and Dr. Shane says, it is not clear what is causing the inflammation.

"You have to remember we're giving millions of doses of the vaccines," she says.  "So, we are going to experience some adverse effects.  The question is whether those adverse effects are greater than the baseline population."

Shane says myocarditis can be triggered by many things, including viral infections. 

The CDC encourages teens age 12 and older to get vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2.

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