Vaccine providers in the Treasure Valley have opened up appointments to children ages 12 to 15 after a government panel recommended the Pfizer vaccine for use in younger children on Wednesday.
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in 12-to-15 year-olds. On Wednesday, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel convened and recommended that the vaccine be used for children younger than 16 for the first time. The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, adopted the recommendation on Wednesday evening.
Having been given the green light, vaccine providers are opening appointments and scheduling mass vaccination clinics for that age group — something St. Luke’s Health System and Saint Alphonsus Health System did Wednesday. All patients younger than 18 who receive an appointment must be accompanied by a parent or guardian for their shot.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots spaced three weeks apart.
At St. Luke’s, appointments and walk-ins will be available starting Thursday at their locations in Boise, Meridian, Nampa, McCall and Twin Falls. Appointments at St. Al’s can be made at locations in The Village at Meridian, Caldwell and Fruitland.
Also on Wednesday, CVS Pharmacy announced that it will begin administering vaccines to the new age group on Thursday at two locations. Appointments were showing up as available at the CVS on West Fairview Avenue in Boise, and the company said the CVS in Nampa also would vaccinate children.
At the end of May, the Boise School District will offer vaccination clinics at local high schools in partnership with St. Luke’s. Clinics will be held at Borah High and Capital High on May 20, and at Boise High and Timberline High on May 24, according to a Wednesday release.
On May 22, Idaho’s Crush the Curve will offer a mass vaccination drive-thru clinic at the Boise Airport, followed by a second clinic at Caldwell on June 5. Appointments can be made on the group’s website.
On Wednesday, Central District Health, which has jurisdiction over Ada, Boise, Valley and Elmore counties, said in a release that it expects to receive 8,190 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week. A list of providers offering the vaccine is available on CDH’s website.
The Pfizer vaccine’s approval comes after the FDA reviewed a Pfizer and BioNTech clinical trial that included over 2,000 participants, according to a news release. Around half of the participants received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine three weeks apart, while the rest received two doses of a placebo. Among the participants who received the vaccine, no symptomatic coronavirus infections were discovered, while there were 18 cases in the placebo group.
“These vaccines are very safe and incredibly effective,” Dr. A. Patrice Burgess, a family physician at St. Al’s, said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines have received emergency authorization only for adults. Before Monday, Pfizer’s vaccine was authorized for people at least 16 years of age.
Children 12-15 account for about 6% of Idaho’s population, according to estimates from the Census Bureau, and vaccinating the vast majority of the population across all age groups is what health experts believe is required to ensure a return to normal life.
“It’s a huge benefit and is now available to children age 12-plus,” said Dr. Vaun Archibald, a pediatrician at St. Al’s, in the release. “That’s amazing.”
With the new age group, 85% of all Idahoans are now eligible for the vaccine, according to a release from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
“Children can spread COVID-19 inadvertently because their symptoms are often so mild, so this safe and effective vaccine is a critical next step to stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Idaho,” Dr. Christine Hahn, public health medical director and state epidemiologist, said in the release. “We hope parents will choose to get their children vaccinated so we can keep schools open in the fall and children engaged in their extracurricular activities.”
More than 3.8 million children have contracted COVID-19 in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and 24% of new cases in the country the first week of May were in children.
Though children often have fewer symptoms than adults, a small subset of children in Idaho have experienced a rare syndrome that results from having COVID-19.
“This has been a rough year on children, with the isolation and the separation from their friends,” Archibald said. “Our greatest hope of getting back to a normal life is universal vaccination.”