12- to 15-year-olds now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine
Kenneth P. Colmer, MD, a pediatrician with Bass River Pediatric Associates in South Yarmouth, knows parents were waiting anxiously for the Food and Drug Administration to approve the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, which the federal agency did on May 10. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave its final approval on May 12, opening the door for young teens to receive the vaccine.
Beginning Wednesday, May 19, Cape Cod Healthcare will make the Pfizer vaccine available to 12- to 15-years-olds at its Vaccination Site at the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis. Registration is advised. Walk-ins are also welcome and vaccines for all other eligible teens and adults will be available.
In March, Pfizer announced that its vaccine was 100 percent effective in clinical trials among 2,260 children ages 12 to 15. Moderna is also doing trials in younger children for its COVID-19 vaccine. At the moment the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccines are approved for those 18 and older.
Pfizer’s clinical trial results should give parents confidence, Dr. Colmer said. He recommends that, once the vaccine receives final approval, young teens get vaccinated against COVID to keep both themselves and others safe, Dr. Colmer said.
“I don’t think it’s totally clear how things spread,” he said. “There are a lot of kids that get this and they’re probably fine. But, they’re asymptomatic. So, they could be spreading it to other people, friends and other family members.”
One more reason to get kids vaccinated: school, Dr. Colmer said. “A lot of people want to get back to school,” he said. “They don’t want to keep doing this remote learning that we’ve been doing for the past year.”
The Pfizer vaccine is a two-shot dose for those 16 and older, and would be the same for 12-to-15 year olds.
Dr. Colmer doesn’t expect side effects to be much different than they were in adults: sore arm, fatigue, muscle aches, chills. “Nothing major,” he said. Kawsar Talaat, an infectious-disease physician and vaccine scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, told the journal Nature that children’s stronger immune responses might make them more likely to develop a fever. However, she noted, children often tolerate fevers better than adults do.
And, there are a few parents who should be wary, said Dr. Colmer. “If there’s been an allergic reaction to one of the components in the vaccine, then a child shouldn’t get it,” he said. “But that’s extremely rare.”
A Kaiser Family Foundation April survey reported about 30 percent of parents said they would get their children vaccinated right away, and 26 percent would wait to see how the vaccine was working. Those percentages are about equal to attitudes among adults about getting themselves vaccinated, according to The New York Times.
While he’s in wait-and-see mode on distribution, Dr. Colmer is recommending that his pediatric patients who qualify get vaccinated.
“I’d go with what’s been shown in adults so far,” he said. “It’s been extremely effective and has minimal side effects. Although it’s new, I’d highly recommend it.”