The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday announced emergency use authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12-15. It is expected that doses will be widely available following approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at a meeting scheduled for May 12.
“It’s terrific news, as a parent and pediatrician, that our kids can be vaccinated,” said Dr. John Williams, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “Although severe COVID-19 is rare in young kids, it does happen, and the vaccine will protect them. Young people can also spread COVID-19 to vulnerable family members, and we know that the vaccine is extremely effective at preventing this.”
Pfizer said in late March that the vaccine was found to be 100% effective in a clinical trial of more than 2,000 adolescents.
“All of the evidence so far says that the vaccine is extremely safe in kids,” said Williams, who is also director of the Institute for Infection, Inflammation, and Immunity in Children (i4Kids). “The vaccine has been given to over 100 million adults with essentially no serious side effects. There’s no reason to think that younger children will be any different.”
The side effects in adolescents were consistent with those reported in clinical trial participants 16 years of age and older, including fever, chills, injection-site soreness and other flu-like symptoms.
UPMC is planning a robust outreach program with middle and high schools throughout southwestern PA. UPMC Children’s Community Pediatrics will also explore opportunities for drive-up vaccination events at several office locations. Additionally, children ages 12-15 will be invited to all existing UPMC vaccination clinics where the Pfizer vaccine is provided.
“Think about what kids all over the country went through being out of school last year. The best way to get all our kids back in school is to get them vaccinated,” said Williams. “The best way to get all our lives back to normal is for as many of us as possible to get vaccinated.”
Parents can go to Vaccine.upmc.com or call 844-876-2822 to make an appointment at one of several locations.