COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds could get federal approval by week’s end

Jeffrey Gerhart, 16, gets his second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from advanced EMT Jonathan Pimble at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The Utah Department of Health estimates that 27.2% of all Utahns are now fully vaccinated, with another nearly 12% of people who have received at least one dose.

Jeffrey Gerhart, 16, gets his second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from advanced EMT Jonathan Pimble at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy on Thursday, April 22, 2021. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Move to vaccinate adolescents is seen as big step towards ‘normalcy’

Utah and the rest of the country are poised to take another “big step toward moving more towards normalcy” with federal approval to begin vaccinating adolescents as young as 12 years old against COVID-19 now apparently imminent.

“I am super excited about that, for what it means for children in Utah,” Dr. Neal Davis, Intermountain Healthcare medical director of pediatric community-based care, said of news reports that the Food and Drug Administration is preparing to authorize use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds.

The New York Times reported Monday the decision is expected early next week but could come late this week, citing federal officials familiar with the agency’s plans. On Tuesday, Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla reportedly told investors in a conference call that the authorization should come “shortly.”

The company also said it plans to seek two new emergency authorizations from the FDA in September, one to allow the COVID-19 vaccine to be given to children 2 to 5 years old and a second, to allow it for children 5 to 11 years old, NPR reported. A possible request for children 6 months to 2 years old is expected in the fourth quarter.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday the administration is “ready to move immediately” if the FDA approves the request for 12-15 year olds, promising to make some 20,000 pharmacy sites nationwide ready to vaccinate them, as well as shipping doses to pediatricians in the coming weeks.

“We know that adolescents are at risk from COVID-19,” Biden said. “Though serious illness at that age range is rare, they can still get sick and spread the virus to others. So, my hope is that if the vaccine is authorized, parents will take advantage of it and get their kids vaccinated.”

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Pfizer announced in late March that its vaccine, already available to 16- and 17-year-olds, proved highly effective in the younger age group in a clinical trial, leading to speculation federal approval could come in time for children to be fully vaccinated well before the new school year starts in the fall.

Vaccinating the young is a “critical step” to reaching what’s called herd immunity against the coronavirus, Davis said, particularly in Utah where nearly 30% of the state’s residents are under 18. Experts say at least 70% or more of the population must be vaccinated before the spread of the virus stalls.

Currently, only about 30% of Utah’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning it has been at least two weeks since their final vaccine dose. That number rises to 40.4% among Utahns 16 and older, the group now eligible to get the shots.

“This is something that can help protect children, and it helps the entire community by decreasing the spread of …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News

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