Children 12 to 15 now eligible for Pfizer vaccine; shots should start locally by week’s end |

Children 12 to 15 now eligible for Pfizer vaccine; shots should start locally by week’s end

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4 p.m. to include information about Pfizer vaccine clinics at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Children ages 12 to 15 will be able to start getting the Pfizer made COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the week in Routt County, after federal health officials Wednesday extended the shots’ emergency use authorization to include younger children.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved extension of who is eligible for the shot Monday after the company presented data showing that in a limited trial, the vaccine was found to be 100% effective.

Of the 1,005 trial participants who received the vaccine, there was not a single case of the virus, while there were 16 cases in a placebo group of 978 children, according to the FDA. Analysis of the immune response to the vaccine in the children was “noninferior,” or just as good as, the response in those ages 16 to 25.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave its approval for the extended eligibility after the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices unanimously approved the move Wednesday.

“We 100% recommend getting your kids down to age 12 vaccinated,” said Dr. Dana Fitzgerald, a pediatrician with Pediatrics of Steamboat Springs. “This is how we get life back to normal, and we really feel this is a safe vaccine.”

Of the three vaccines available in the U.S., just the Pfizer shot has been approved for those yunger than 18 years old. In December, Pfizer’s vaccine was approved for everyone age 16 and older. Both Pfizer and Moderna, which manufactures the other two-shot vaccine, are now working on clinical trials involving people as young as 6 months.

Over half — about 2.5 million — of all the doses administered in Colorado have been the Pfizer vaccine.

Pfizer is currently available from UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and Safeway’s in-store pharmacy. The next first dose clinic at the hospital will be Tuesday and will accept walk-ins from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. in addition to taking appointments. Another first dose clinic is scheduled for May 26. Those younger than the age of 18 require parent consent to get the vaccine.

Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith said Monday the county is working to get some of the Pfizer shots as well.

“School is still in session for a couple more weeks in Routt County, so it might be a good opportunity, if all of those approvals are made, to get that started here at the beginning of the summer,” Smith said.

The new age guidelines expand eligibility to about 1,400 children in Routt County, according to Smith. This will lower the percentage of eligible people in the county vaccinated because more are now eligible. As of Wednesday, over half of all Routt County residents have been fully vaccinated.

Dr. Steve Ross, a pediatrician at Sleeping Bear Pediatrics in Steamboat, said he anticipates the Moderna vaccine will get similar approval in about a month. Ross said state officials are now starting to allow pediatricians to do vaccinations, and his practice hopes to have Pfizer shots available in two to four weeks.

“We’ve seen a staggering amount of mental health illnesses,” Ross said about children. “The isolation from the pandemic has been terrible, so we really want to get these kids safely vaccinated as soon as possible.”

About 29% of parents said they will get their child vaccinated as soon as possible while another 32% prefer to wait and see how things work first, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last week. About 19% of parents indicated they would definitely not get their child vaccinated, and another 15% said they would only get their child a shot if required by schools.

Every state, including Colorado, has requirements for vaccinations in schools, but those only involve vaccines that have been fully approved by the FDA. All three of the COVID-19 vaccines have only been approved for emergency use, but each company is pursuing full approval, which could happen later this summer

“Everyone is wondering about side effects,” Fitzgerald said. “You can see low grade fevers, chills, body aches, headaches that can last for one to two days, but we have certainly seen other teenagers who didn’t really seem to be effected by the vaccine at all.”

In the FDA’s approval Monday, the agency said that side effects seen in trial participants were consistent with those seen in adults. The Pfizer vaccine should not be given to someone with a history of severe reaction to any of the components of the vaccine. Ross suggests people with this in their medical history consult with their doctor before getting a shot.

Ross said he believes that by the end of the summer, vaccines will be available to all people age 2 and older.

“This is a very well vetted vaccine. Pfizer has got the highest standards of evaluation,” Ross said.

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