By Kerry Dooley Young, Alicia Ault, WebMD
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for teens age 12 to 15 gained final federal authorization on Wednesday as the director of the CDC urged parents to get their children immunized.
“This official CDC action opens vaccination to approximately 17 million adolescents in the United States and strengthens our nation’s efforts to protect even more people from the effects of COVID-19,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said in a statement announcing her decision to accept a committee’s vote earlier Wednesday that the vaccine be recommended for use. “Getting adolescents vaccinated means their faster return to social activities and can provide parents and caregivers peace of mind knowing their family is protected.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 14-0 earlier in the day to recommend the vaccine’s use for younger teens and adolescents. The vote comes after the FDA on Monday granted emergency use authorization for use of the vaccine in younger teens after it first cleared it in December for those ages 16 and older.
Walenksy urged parents to seriously consider vaccinating their children.
“Understandably, some parents want more information before their children receive a vaccine,” she said. “I encourage parents with questions to talk to your child’s healthcare provider or your family doctor to learn more about the vaccine.”
Separately, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement on Wednesday calling on parents to get their children vaccinated. in support of vaccinating all children ages 12 and older who are eligible.
A CDC advisory committee unanimously recommended the full use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for teens ages 12-15.
Now @CDCDirector needs to sign off on the rec before shots go in arms.
— Ariel Cohen (@ArielCohen37) May 12, 2021
“As a pediatrician and a parent, I have looked forward to getting my own children and patients vaccinated, and I am thrilled that those ages 12 and older can now be protected,” AAP President Lee Savio Beers, MD, said in a statement. “The data continue to show that this vaccine is safe and effective. I urge all parents to call their pediatrician to learn more about how to get their children and teens vaccinated.”
The expanded clearance for the Pfizer vaccine is seen as a critical step for allowing teens to resume activities on which they missed out during the pandemic.
“We’ve seen the harm done to children’s mental and emotional health as they’ve missed out on so many experiences during the pandemic,” Beers said. “Vaccinating children will protect them and allow them to fully engage in all of the activities — school, sports, socializing with friends and family — that are so important to their health and development.”
Meanwhile, health care providers in some states didn’t wait for the CDC panel’s decision and began immunizing children with the Pfizer vaccine this week.
The Delaware Division of Public Health opened four clinics on Wednesday and said it would start administering the Pfizer vaccine to children age 12 or older immediately. “Written parental consent is required to vaccinate individuals younger than 18 years old, however the parent is not required to be on site with the child during the vaccination,” according to a statement from the agency.
— Daniel Munoz (@DanielMunoz100) May 12, 2021
“As we look to increase our vaccinated population, especially to reach young people who will be going back to college and school at the end of summer, these new vaccination-only clinics have the capacity to administer thousands of vaccines a week,” Division Director Karyl Rattay, MD, said in the statement.
The Georgia Department of Public Health also updated its website to note that the Pfizer vaccine was immediately available to anyone age 12 or older.
CNN reported that some parents and children had lined up and received the shot at state-sponsored vaccine sites on Tuesday.