Following new recommendations from the federal government, both the Orange County Health Department and UNC Health began offering the Pfizer vaccine to kids ages 12 to 15 on Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended expanded usage of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, following approval from the Food and Drug Administration to expand the vaccine’s emergency use authorization two days prior.
Pfizer is the only coronavirus vaccine approved for those under 18. Currently, North Carolina has close to 800,000 Pfizer first and second doses.
In wake of this news, the Orange County Health Department said a substantial allotment of the Pfizer vaccine is now available at all county walk-in and pop-up clinics – which are held Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
The Pfizer vaccine is approved for ages 12 and up! That means EVERYONE 12 and older is now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting vaccinated is free and convenient:https://t.co/Bsmov7jsNw pic.twitter.com/PywShPtjnp
— Orange County Health (@OrangeHealthNC) May 13, 2021
UNC Health officials said there is a great demand for vaccines for 12 to 15-year-olds in the Chapel Hill community. At the Friday Center on Thursday, roughly 700 first dose appointments filled up in record time – most of which were from the newly-eligible age group. Future Pfizer vaccinations will continue to be offered via appointment or walk-in at eligible clinics.
Dr. Michael Smith is a pediatrician and medical director of the Duke Children’s Health Center Infectious Diseases Clinic. He is also a study investigator involved in the recent pediatric trials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
“There are almost 2,300 children, and it’s about a 50-50 split in the trial,” Smith said “Half of those children received a placebo, or kind of a dummy injection of saline or saltwater, and the other 50 percent received the vaccine. So that’s about just over 1,000 in each group. Of those, we enrolled just over 100 here at Duke.”
Smith said he recommends anyone 12 or older to get the vaccine, especially after looking at Pfizer’s recently released trial results.
“When you look at their (Pfizer’s) press release, the important thing to note is that of the children in the trial who ultimately had a COVID infection, all of them were in the placebo group, and none were in the vaccine group,” Smith said. “So, if you got the vaccine in this trial, you did not get COVID. That translates to a vaccine that has 100 percent efficacy.”
The most commonly reported temporary reactions among teens were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain. These typically lasted between one and three days and were similar to those reported in clinical trial participants 16 years of age and older.
Experts say between 70 and 85 percent of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to achieve herd immunity. With children making up a substantial portion of the population, Smith said these new federal recommendations are a step in the right direction.
In North Carolina, 51 percent of those 18 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. When factoring in children, the percentage drops to 40 percent.
“As a father and a pediatrician, I am thrilled that COVID does not tend to cause severe disease in children as it does in adults,” Smith said. “But let’s be clear, kids are affected by this. Certainly, some children do get admitted to the hospital. Certainly, some children do die from this. So, the risk is not zero. And I think all of us – whether we are parents or grandparents or physicians – can clearly see the impact that this pandemic has had on kids. So, anything we can do to reduce disease incidence and disease transmission in kids, to get society back open to the way it was pre-pandemic, I think is useful.”
The Chatham County Health Department is also offering the Pfizer vaccine to residents 12 and older.
Find a North Carolina provider to get your COVID vaccine here.
Lead photo courtesy of Curtis Compton via AP.
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