A nurse prepares the COVID-19 vaccine. Image Credit: AP

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia is studying vaccinating children under 12 against COVID-19, with the Kingdom having administered more than 38 million jabs, local media reported.

Spokesperson of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Mohammad Al Abdali, said international studies were underway on the effectiveness and safety of using vaccines approved in the Kingdom for the 5 to 11 age group.

“The available data from these studies can be supplemented and given to the competent authorities for their consideration, and then deciding on their suitability for this age group and approval for their use,” he told the daily briefing.

Pfizer and Moderna are both running large pediatric trials to study the effectiveness and safety of using their COVID-19 mRNA vaccines for children under 12.

Researchers have already shared some early findings about how a COVID-19 vaccine may be used in younger children.

In the clinical trial for the Pfizer vaccine, the data collected shows that one-third of the adult dose is the optimal range for children younger than 12 and older than 5, says Dr. Flor Muñoz at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, who is running the Pfizer study.

The Pfizer study won’t test to see whether the vaccine actually prevents children from getting sick. Instead, it will look at their blood to see if they are making the kinds of antibodies that have been shown to prevent disease. Studies of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in adults have already shown that such antibodies indicate that someone is well-protected from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. Children will remain part of the study for two years so researchers can determine how long protection lasts, whether any rare, long-term health issues arise, and whether a booster is needed.

Moderna is conducting a similar pediatric study of its COVID-19 vaccine. Children enrolling in the Moderna trial now have a 3 to 1 chance of getting the vaccine, because only 25% of the participants are in the placebo arm of the trial.

Saudi Ministry of Health data showed more than 38 million vaccine doses have been administered across the country, including 22.5 million first doses, and 15.5 million second doses, while the number of senior citizens who have received the vaccine reached 1.6 million.