US health advisers endorse Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for kids 12 and up

Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel Wednesday voted to back the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12 to 15.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which provides recommendations to the CDC, voted to back the vaccine, after reviewing trial evidence that showed no one in the 12-15 age group who received the vaccine got COVID-19, and there were no cases of Bell’s palsy or severe allergic reactions.

This comes just days after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccine for use in the younger age group, offering relief to parents eager to get their children back to schools and summer camps. Previously, only those 16 and older were eligible for the vaccine. Some states, including Georgia, Delaware and Arkansas, began offering the vaccine to younger teens on Tuesday.

Studies conducted by Pfizer showed the vaccine not only was safe for the younger teenagers but also nearly eliminated all risk of catching COVID-19. The company did note that some children have similar reactions to adults from the second shot, including fever, chills, and aches.

Pfizer is also running a separate trial testing the vaccine in children as young as 6-months-old and has said it expects data on its use in 2- to 11-year-olds in September.

The rollout of a vaccine for adolescents should help further limit the spread of the virus at a time when more contagious variants are circulating and could shorten the road to normalcy for Americans.

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.

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.

About one in three Americans have been fully vaccinated according to data compiled by the CDC, with the pace of vaccination slowing in the recent weeks.

Last week, President Joe Biden announced his administration’s new goal of 70% of American adults getting at least one vaccine dose and 160 million being fully vaccinated by July 4.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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