A health care worker prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine
If the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approves the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 as expected on Wednesday, Vermont parents could be signing up their children for appointments as early as the next day.
In preparation, the state is setting up clinics at more than 40 schools around the state, and families will also be able to register for a vaccine at Kinney Drugs or CVS, officials said on Tuesday at one of the Scott administration’s regular COVID-19 press briefings.
Vermont has an estimated 27,000 children in that age group, state officials said.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Pfizer vaccine, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday. The committee is expected to recommend use of the vaccine, said state Health Commissioner Mark Levine. The CDC will then send instructions and guidance for its administration to the states.
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots have not yet been approved for people under age 18.
“Vermont has been preparing for this,” Levine said. “We’ll be ready to offer the vaccine to this age group almost immediately.”
He advised parents who have children in this age group to start planning now by registering on the state health department's website. They will be able to sign up the morning after CDC approval is announced.
Families can go to any of the school sites in the state to get the shot for their child, Levine said. The state is expected to have an adequate supply of the Pfizer vaccine to meet the needs of the age group.
Levine said that the FDA’s approval was informed by clinical trials that included 2,250 children ages 12 to 15, about half of whom received the Pfizer vaccine.
Levine said there were 18 cases of COVID-19 in the placebo group and none in the group that received the vaccination.
Asked if he had heard concerns about the safety of the vaccine, Levine cited a recent national Kaiser Family Foundation survey that found three in 10 parents of children ages 12 to 15 reported they would get their child vaccinated as soon as the vaccine was available. Nearly a quarter said they definitely wouldn’t get their child vaccinated.
“We do know that families respect their pediatricians very much, and traditionally in our vaccines for children program there is significantly great uptake, so that bodes well from the get-go,” Levine said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter urged parents to get their children vaccinated, saying that the pandemic has made an impact on the physical and mental health of adolescents.
"A bright spot has been seeing our older adolescent patients get vaccinated over the last few weeks and we are thrilled that this protection will be offered to all of our patients 12 years old and up," the group said. "This safe and effective vaccine is key to gaining control of the virus and getting adolescents back to the social, educational, and extracurricular activities that are so important for their physical and emotional well-being."
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are each running clinical vaccine trials with adolescents aged 12 to 17, according to the state health department. Pfizer and Moderna are also carrying out clinical trials of their vaccines for younger children.
More than 60 percent of Vermonters 16 and over have now received at least one dose of vaccine, state officials said at the briefing Tuesday — coverage that puts the state at No. 1 per capita. Cases of COVID-19 in Vermont are down 69 percent since April 1, and dropped 20 percent in the last week, according to the state Department of Financial Regulation, which is managing COVID-19 modeling for the state.