U.S. health officials endorsed use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in kids as young as 12 on Wednesday — just as planned new guidelines say it’s OK for people of any age to get a coronavirus shot at the same time as other needed vaccinations.
The shots will let kids safely attend camps this summer and help assure a more normal return to classrooms next school year, concluded advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“And this is another way to get closer to ending this horrible pandemic,” said adviser Dr. Camille Kotton of Harvard Medical School.
The CDC rapidly accepted the recommendation.
The sprint to vaccinate millions of middle and high school students has already started in parts of the country, as a long line of kids rolled up their sleeves in suburban Atlanta for a first dose Wednesday.
“It just felt like a flu shot, honestly,” said Meredith Rogers, 14, from Decatur, Georgia, after getting her vaccination.
Michelle Rogers, Meredith’s mother, said she hoped the youth vaccinations would help bring some normalcy back.
“A little apprehensive, but you know what? This is a step towards getting life back to normal so, we’re all in,” Michelle Rogers said with a slight fist pump.
The Michigan health department late Wednesday said health care providers can begin vaccinating the 12-15 age group and that it will issue further guidance Thursday.
“Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in the fight against COVID-19 in Michigan,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, said in a statement.
CVS Health said it was scheduling vaccine appointments for those ages 12 to 15 at its nearly 70 pharmacies across Michigan starting Thursday.
“Parental or legal guardian consent is required, and children must be accompanied by an adult,” CVS regional spokesman Charlie Rice-Minoso said in a Wednesday statement.
Patients are encouraged to schedule an appointment online at cvs.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app. But walk-ins also will be accepted, he said.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Wednesday said the city will begin offering the Pfizer vaccine to teens age 12 to 15 as soon as Thursday.
The city is prepared to distribute vaccines to kids age 12 to 15 who are accompanied by a parent or guardian, he said. The parent or guardian will have to show identification and sign a written consent form.
The “good neighbor” incentives do not qualify to anyone under the age of 18, Duggan said.
The city’s Good Neighbor program offers a prepaid $50 MasterCard for anyone who registers while making the appointment to bring a Detroiter and gives another $50 for bringing them to their second dose.
“You should bring your child in to get vaccinated…, but I don’t want anyone to think you can make $50 by doing it,” Duggan said.
The city has 39 vaccine locations including the TCF Center, Ford Field mass vaccination clinic, walk-in locations and eight community Saturday locations at neighborhood churches and recreation centers.
To schedule a vaccination appointment in the city, call (313) 230-0505 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Find the nearest location by texting your address to (313) 217-3732.
Pfizer’s vaccine has been used for months in people 16 and older, and earlier this week the Food and Drug Administration cleared its use for those as young as age 12. But before rolling it out to the younger kids, much of the nation was awaiting recommendations from CDC’s advisers — and the panel concluded the same dose adults use is safe and strongly protective in those 12 to 15 years old, too.
A key question: Is it OK to get vaccinated against COVID-19 at the same doctor’s visit as people receive some routine vaccinations? That’s an urgent back-to-school concern especially for the 12- to 15-year-olds, who have missed out on regularly scheduled vaccines during the pandemic — but it’s an issue for adults, too.
The CDC until now has recommended not getting other vaccinations within two weeks of a COVID-19 shot, mostly as a precaution so that safety monitors could spot if any unexpected side effects cropped up.
But the CDC said Wednesday it is changing that advice because the COVID-19 vaccines have proved very safe — and that health workers can decide to give another needed vaccine at the same time for people of any age.
“The need for catch-up vaccination in coordination with COVID-19 vaccination is urgent as we plan for safe return to school,” CDC’s Dr. Kate Woodworth told the panel, citing millions of missed doses of vaccines against tetanus, whooping cough and other health threats.
The American Academy of Pediatrics on Wednesday also urged that kids 12 and older get the Pfizer vaccine – and agreed that it’s fine to give more than one vaccine at the same time, especially for kids who are behind on their regular vaccinations.
Children are far less likely than adults to get seriously ill from COVID-19 — but they do sometimes die, and thousands have been hospitalized. By last month, those ages 12 to 17 were making up slightly more of the nation’s new coronavirus infections than adults over 65, a group that’s now largely vaccinated.
The two-dose vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech was studied in more than 2,000 kids ages 12 to 15. There were no cases of COVID-19 among vaccinated kids compared with 16 in the group given dummy shots. Kids also developed higher levels of virus-fighting antibodies than vaccinated adults.
Side effects are the same as adults experience, mostly sore arms and flu-like fever, chills or aches that signal the immune system is revving up.
CDC’s advisers did caution that those temporary shot reactions may be even more common if people get a COVID-19 shot at the same time as another vaccination.
President Joe Biden hailed Wednesday’s vote, noting that means 17 million more people in the U.S. now qualify to get vaccinated.
“I encourage their parents to make sure they get the shot,” he said. “As I promised last week, we’re ready. This new population is going to find the vaccine rollout fast and efficient.”
In addition to the mass vaccination sites and health department rollouts that were key for adults, many states will be offering kids more familiar options — shipping doses to pediatricians and even to schools.
Pfizer is not the only company seeking to lower the age limit for its vaccine. Moderna recently said preliminary results from its study in 12- to 17-year-olds show strong protection and no serious side effects, data the FDA will need to scrutinize.
As for even younger children, both companies have begun tests in youngsters ages 6 months to 11 years. Those studies explore if different doses are needed at the youngest ages, and FDA plans to hold a public meeting next month to debate exactly what evidence is needed.
Detroit News Staff Writers Beth LeBlanc and Sarah Rahal contributed.
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