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Pfizer vaccine authorized by FDA for 12-15-year-olds, setting stage for new phase of campaign in Sonoma County

5 reasons why you should have your young teenagers vaccinated

*The two-dose shot is safe and produces a strong immune response, with 100% efficacy in safeguarding 12-15 year-olds against the disease, clinical trial data shows. The vaccine has already been in authorized use for older teenagers.

*Vaccinating young teens moves the general population closer to the 80% threshold needed to obtain herd immunity and slow viral spread, public health experts say.

*It also offers peace of mind to families as teens return to typical activities.

*The Pfizer vaccine is already widely available in storage, so there is no need to wait for shipments of additional supplies.

*Youth make up a growing share of new coronavirus cases in California. A year ago, children and adolescents younger than 18 represented 5% of the state’s reported COVID-19 cases. Now they account for about 18.7% of the cases.

Source: The Mercury News

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For information about how to schedule a vaccine in Sonoma County, go here.

Track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine Monday for 12-15-year-olds, providing another tool in the public health campaign to make schools, families and communities safer. The authorization adds an estimated 23,300 kids to Sonoma County’s vaccine eligibility pool. Dylan Hansen is one of them, and he’ll be lining up soon.

“We will be online making an appointment as soon as it’s open,” said his mother, Jennifer Hansen. “My children all receive their vaccinations. And I think of parents who didn’t have those options. Measles, mumps, rubella, smallpox — at some point, brave parents had to step up and get these shots for their children.”

Children, of course, have long been more accustomed to immunization shots than adults. But they weren’t part of initial large-scale research into the safety and effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency guiding much of the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, did not immediately make them eligible.

The centers authorized the Pfizer vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds on April 15, and Sonoma County followed suit as soon as the practice was recommended by the CDC and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. It will likely follow the same order for 12-15-year-olds, said Dr. Urmila Shende, the county’s vaccine chief.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has planned an emergency meeting for Wednesday. If the advisory committee approves Pfizer for the younger age demographic, the CDC could greenlight the age expansion as soon as this week.

The public thirst for vaccinating teens and preteens isn’t anything like the frenzy surrounding initial availability of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. People 75 and older have borne a much higher risk from the coronavirus. They have accounted for more than 60% of the COVID deaths in Sonoma County while making up less than 10% of the total population.

All along, children have appeared to transmit the virus less frequently, and are much less likely be hospitalized or die from it. But they are not entirely safe from this pathogen. Estimates of pediatric fatalities from COVID-19 in the U.S. fall between 300 and 600, which would place the virus among top 10 causes of death for children since March, 2020. Most analysts believe that’s an undercount.

Now, with older Americans getting vaccinated, schools reopening and coronavirus variants changing the science, youth account for a greater share of new cases. A year ago, children made up around 3% of the nation’s coronavirus cases. On May 3, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that share had grown to 22.4%.

In California, a year ago, children and adolescents younger than 18 represented 5% of the state’s reported COVID-19 cases, The Mercury News reported Monday. Now they account for about 18.7% of the cases.

“It’s not the fact that they haven’t had as many side effects from the virus,” Shende said. “Yes, in terms of sheer morbidity, that’s true. It’s more the fact that we’re now at a different stage of trying to contain COVID. We can’t get go complete herd immunity until we’re able to protect younger members of the population.”

The possibility of an adolescent carrying the virus without symptoms and passing it along to older contacts has always been the larger concern. It has been the major sticking point in reopening school campuses for instruction, with many teachers worried they would risk exposure — or that their students’ families would.

“Even before I was vaccinated, I felt I had the ability to protect myself,” said Genevieve Lilligren, who teaches English to seventh graders at Santa Rosa Middle School. “I knew I could position myself near an open door if that was really critical. But I had a concern about my personal children and my students.”

Lilligren has sons aged 6 and 2.

Perhaps some of her pupils’ parents had similar fears. Among her class of 37, Lilligren said, slightly more than half have opted to return to the classroom, in a modified pod of no more than 12 kids.

Lilligren supports any measure that may bring her closer to filling the classroom with boisterous middle schoolers again, rather than splitting time between a small number sitting in front of her and another 12-30 who are monitoring her instruction remotely via Zoom.

“The thing that’s hard for me, I feel like I can’t give everyone my full attention,” she said. “The kids have been very understanding, but there is some pressure I’m placing on myself, or that I perceive to be coming from parents.”

5 reasons why you should have your young teenagers vaccinated

*The two-dose shot is safe and produces a strong immune response, with 100% efficacy in safeguarding 12-15 year-olds against the disease, clinical trial data shows. The vaccine has already been in authorized use for older teenagers.

*Vaccinating young teens moves the general population closer to the 80% threshold needed to obtain herd immunity and slow viral spread, public health experts say.

*It also offers peace of mind to families as teens return to typical activities.

*The Pfizer vaccine is already widely available in storage, so there is no need to wait for shipments of additional supplies.

*Youth make up a growing share of new coronavirus cases in California. A year ago, children and adolescents younger than 18 represented 5% of the state’s reported COVID-19 cases. Now they account for about 18.7% of the cases.

Source: The Mercury News

_____

For information about how to schedule a vaccine in Sonoma County, go here.

Track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

Pfizer officials are confident their vaccine can help return life to normal for teenagers. A clinical trial that included 2,260 participants aged 12-15 produced “100% efficacy and robust antibody responses,” according to the drug maker. Any side effects recorded in the trial were generally mild and comparable to those in the 16-25 age range, with fevers slightly more common.

Pfizer plans to submit further emergency use authorization requests in September that would cover everyone from 2 to 11 years old. Meanwhile, Moderna is awaiting results from its own clinical trial involving kids aged 12-17, and expects to have similar results later this year for children ranging from 6 months to 12 years old.

Whether those youngsters wind up getting vaccinated is another matter. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that only 29% of parents would bring in their 12-15-year-olds for a Pfizer vaccination right away. About 32% said they’d wait to see the results in other children, while 19% definitely wouldn’t do it and another 15% will vaccinate their kids only if their school requires it.

Neither the Sonoma County Office of Education nor Santa Rosa City Schools, the county’s largest school district, has surveyed families on the subject of acceptance, according to representatives.

Shende, the vaccine chief, is also a licensed pediatrician, and she said the conversations she’s had with parents about vaccinating children against the coronavirus have been “all over the map.” But she cautioned against reading too much into the poll numbers.

“We’ve seen this before,” she said. “It was very similar among adults when the vaccines were new in December. If you recall, at least a third were saying they weren’t going to get vaccinated. We started to see that change as people got more comfortable with the idea. And that’s totally understandable when something is new.”

Shende said the federal and California state governments are weighing the idea of allowing private pediatricians to administer the coronavirus vaccine in their offices in an effort to alleviate parents’ concerns.

Jennifer Hansen said her Windsor family isn’t spending a lot of time debating the pros and cons of coronavirus vaccinations for the young. They did that already when Dylan’s older brother Cody became eligible. Cody, 16, is a sophomore at Windsor High School; Dylan, 14, is a freshman there. That prior search for evidence led Cody and his parents to a clear decision.

“We felt it was important to give him any kind of barriers we can to protect him,” Jennifer said.

The Hansens love to take family trips. In March they had their first big one in ages, flying to Florida for spring break at Disneyworld. Jennifer and her husband, James, were both vaccinated — she runs a day care center; he works in maintenance for the Windsor Unified School District. It was fun, and they felt Disney was handling COVID safely. But it’s a trip they take most years, and this one felt different, more muted and less freewheeling with the effects of the pandemic lingering.

The Hansens believe full community vaccination is one of the best ways to return to a happier time. Not all the parents of Cody’s classmates reached the same conclusion.

“No, they did not. And I find when I say Cody got his vaccine, I get a lot of looks of horror,” Hansen said. “People were surprised. And that’s fine. I feel this is a decision every family has to make for itself.”

You can reach Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Skinny_Post.

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