Good news for people with kids: this week, Pfizer and BioNTech released results for their trial involving adolescents aged 12-15. In the trial, no participants who received the vaccine contracted symptomatic COVID-19 out of a total of 2,260 participants, marking an efficacy rate of 100%. (Remember in December the efficacy rate was 95% for adults.) 18 participants in the placebo group did get symptomatic COVID-19. Additionally, Dr. Fauci said in the April 2 White House COVID-19 briefing that, by the end of the year, there should be enough data to safely vaccinate children of any age.
The results are, obviously, fantastic. But there was a wrinkle in reporting said results; one that pointed to the dangers of communicating science via press release. Originally, as Dr. Natalie Dean pointed out on Twitter, there was some confusion over whether there were no cases in the vaccinated group at all, or whether there were just no symptomatic cases:
This is pretty important as infections in this group tend to be asymptomatic. Apoorva Mandavilli, who broke the Pfizer story for the New York Times, clarified that she had been told that there were in fact no infections:
Until someone pointed out that STAT had clarified that there were no symptomatic infections:
Mandavilli decided to triple check, and turns out:
Basically, someone at Pfizer messed up and incorrectly said that there had been no infections in the vaccine group at all when they really meant that there were no symptomatic infections. It doesn’t look like they regularly tested participants who had gotten the vaccine vs participants who got the placebo. This sounds like splitting hairs, but precision matters when communicating the results of highly anticipated trials. “No infections” and “no symptomatic cases” are different results. It’s a blow to Pfizer’s credibility in their press releases, and it was probably at least really annoying for Mandavilli.
In the meantime, Johnson & Johnson has also begun a trial in adolescents, so hopefully whoever is running PR for them saw this Twitter thread (or is reading this article 👀) and will know to be more careful than the Pfizer guy was.
But for now, we can rejoice in what is still very promising data. You get a Pfizer! And you get a Pfizer! How about a Pfizer for the little one? EVERYBODY GETS A PFIZER! (Well, when it gets actually authorized for that age group.)
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