Vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds come just in time for summer
Teenagers (and parents) looking forward to summer fun received good news on Monday, after the Food and Drug Administration authorized use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds in the U.S.
The vaccine, which was granted emergency authorization by the FDA in December, was initially only available for front line workers and those deemed most at risk (mainly people aged 65 and older).
Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine also was only authorized for people over the age of 15, making Monday’s announcement a landmark decision as the country continues to make progress in returning to normal life.
“This is great news,” Dr. Kristin Oliver, a pediatrician and vaccine expert at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, told the New York Times. “It feels like we’ve been waiting a long time to start protecting children in this age group.”
Authorizing the vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds should help with the process of reopening schools by reducing the threat of transmission, as well as providing a gateway for summer activities such as camps and sports.
Pfizer and BioNTech conducted clinical trials with 2,260 participants between the ages of 12 to 15, and found that while developing a fever was slightly more common in this age range than in older children, it was safe for use.
Dr. Bill Gruber, a senior vice president at Pfizer and a pediatrician, said he was very pleased with the results, noting that the trend for younger people developing a fever was consistent with earlier trials.
“We have safety, we got the immune response we wanted — it was actually better than what we saw in the 16- to 25-year-old population — and we had outright demonstration of efficacy,” he told the New York Times.
Now that the FDA has approved use of the vaccine, the CDC will review all available data and make recommendations on the safest way for it to be rolled out, before ultimately endorsing, allowing immunizations to begin.
Much of the conversation surrounding children and COVID is how it appeared to be less lethal in younger people, with the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions more susceptible to serious illness and death.
While fewer than 250 children have died of COVID in the U.S., a large number still but just a fraction of the 580,000+ adults who have succumbed to the virus, they make up around 13% of all cases.
“The risk of your child catching Covid and getting really sick is low, but it’s not zero,” Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and professor at Brown University, told the New York Times. “And the risk of them getting sick or hospitalized or worse with Covid or with the post-Covid multi-inflammatory syndrome is higher than the risk of something bad from this vaccine.”
A recent poll has shown that while 30% of parents plan to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible, another 26% said they planned on taking a wait and see approach.
Around 20,000 pharmacies are ready to begin administering the vaccine to children, according to President Joe Biden.