In what President Joe Biden called a “promising development,” the FDA expanded the emergency use authorization (EUA) Monday for the Pfizer vaccine to be given to adolescents as young as 12. The agency also set a meeting for next month for vaccine advisors to discuss authorizing vaccines for younger children.
“This is big news,” CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “The young in this country are now the reservoir of the virus, so if we are going to eradicate this virus, we have to vaccinate the young.”
Vaccinating younger teens not only means a greater shot at ending the pandemic long term, but also means they can safely get back to the birthday parties and sleepovers they had in pre-pandemic life, CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen said.
More than 34% of the US population is fully vaccinated, CDC data shows. Dr. Anthony Fauci has estimated about 70-85% of people need to be immune for the country to reach a “total blanket of protection,” he told CNN late last month.
Now that the EUA has been expanded, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Wednesday and is expected to vote on recommending the vaccine for the expanded age group.
Once CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walenksy gives her final approval, states have the go ahead to administer the vaccine to 12 to 15- year-olds.
The morning the CDC gives that authorization, Walgreens pharmacies will begin administering it, according to Erin Loverher, Walgreens corporate spokesperson. The company said it is offering same-day vaccine scheduling up to 30 minutes before the appointment.
With a delivery of 1,000 Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine doses arriving at Sandhills Pediatrics in Southern Pines, North Carolina early Monday morning, Dr. Christoph Diasio, a pediatrician at the office, is preparing to start vaccinating as soon as possible.
“We’ve been playing defense for 15 months,” said Diasio. “It’s time to go on offense and end this thing.”
Parents urged to catch kids up on other shots
Although many experts are optimistic about the expansion of vacations, pediatricians are concerned about the challenge of balancing scheduling Covid-19 shots with getting children up to date on their childhood vaccines.
“We have seen throughout the pandemic that there has been a decline in routine immunizations, and that does concern me greatly as a pediatrician because I know that many children have missed other important vaccines for diseases like measles or whooping cough — which, like Covid-19, can be deadly,” Dr. Lisa Costello, a pediatrician at WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on State Government Affairs, told CNN on Friday.
One study published in May 2020 by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of childhood vaccines administered in Michigan dropped by as much as 22%.
Scheduling those vaccines could be a problem, because it’s recommended to wait two weeks after getting the Covid-19 vaccine before getting other immunizations, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
“So, it’s an interesting dilemma of how states and providers are going to think about trying to catch kids up at the same time that the Covid-19 vaccine is becoming available (for children ages 12 to 15) — and particularly right now because a lot of the catch up routine immunizations happen as a result of school requirements,” Jill Rosenthal, senior program director at the National Academy for State Health Policy, told CNN on Friday.
“Summer, maybe early fall, is a time where you see concerted efforts to make sure kids are fully immunized.”
Covid-19 cases could result in long-term treatment — even if they didn’t cause hospitalization
Although younger people infected with Covid-19 may not be at as high of a risk of dying of the illness, experts caution that they may still be serious long-term effects.
People who tested positive but were not hospitalized over the course of their illness may face increased risk of certain symptoms such as blood clots or difficulty breathing, and appear to see their doctor more frequently, new data suggest.
But serious symptoms post-infection were rare.
In a study published Monday in The Lancet, researchers examined data from 8,983 unhospitalized Covid-19 patients in Denmark using data from national registries of patient information collected from February to March 2020. The study used the records of people who tested negative for Covid-19 as a control.
The risk of blood clots in unhospitalized Covid-19 patients was 0.2%, compared to 0.1% in the non-Covid-19 population. In-hospital difficulty breathing diagnoses occurred in 1.2% of the Covid-19 population, compared to 0.7% of the control population.
People with mild or asymptomatic Covid-19 were also at greater risk of starting bronchiodilator therapy to help breathing or a class of migraine drugs called triptans. There was no increased risks for other forms of medication. Unhospitalized Covid-19 patients also tended to see a doctor more often than the control group.
Regions making progress toward herd immunity
Some city and state leaders say they have made great strides in tackling the virus with immunizations.
In Connecticut, 71% of individuals who are 18 and over, and 80% of individuals 45 and over have received at least their first dose of the vaccine, according to Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont.
“We’re very close to what they call herd immunity,” Lamont said.
At the current rate of vaccination, Los Angeles County is expected to reach herd immunity by mid to late July, county health officials said in a press briefing Monday.
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer explained that at least 400,000 residents need to be vaccinated each week before the county reaches this level of community immunity. The county still has about 1.5 million first doses to administer before 80% of all residents are vaccinated, according to Dr. Ferrer.
“The more and more people that get vaccinated, the less and less there’s community transmission,” Ferrer said.
CNN’s Maggie Fox, Nikki Carvajal, Lauren Mascarenhas, Jacqueline Howard, Virginia Langmaid, Sahar Akbarzai contributed to this report.
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