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CA Opens Pfizer Vaccinations for Residents Aged 12-15

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The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination is now available for California residents ages 12 through 15 with parental permission following nationwide authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

An estimated 2.1 million California residents meeting the new age limit were granted eligibility to schedule vaccination appointments through a parent or legal guardian beginning May 13.

While administration of the Pfizer vaccine had previously been restricted to Americans aged 16 and older, the FDA expanded its emergency use authorization to individuals 12 years and older on May 10.

“The more Californians who are able to get vaccinated, the better we can protect our communities and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “Our efforts to protect the health and wellbeing of Californians are paying off, as we’re now leading the country with over 32 million vaccines administered and some of the lowest positivity rates in the entire country. Having vaccines expanded to teenagers is the next step in California’s path to safely reopening next month.”

According to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine safety review panel and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, the Pfizer vaccine effectively and safely offers protection to individuals between the ages of 12 to 15 against severe illness, hospitalization, and death caused by COVID-19.

Data from clinical trials demonstrate no serious side effects from the vaccine for this age group. Non-serious side effects such as fatigue and headache were reported.

“It’s important to remember that young people need protection against the severity and ongoing threat of COVID-19,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said. “California has had more than 500 cases of serious health outcomes among young people resulting from this virus, and cases are increasing among younger Americans and Californians who have not yet had the opportunity to be vaccinated.”

The other two major COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the country, by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are currently only available to adults aged 18 or older. Both companies are anticipated to seek expanded authorization for their respective vaccines for use in Americans aged 12 to 17 in the coming months, as evidenced by trial data reporting Moderna’s effectiveness and ongoing clinical trials for Johnson & Johnson.

State officials regard the authorization of the Pfizer vaccine in younger populations as a positive step toward public health efforts in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The state has announced that it will lift capacity and distancing restrictions on June 15, except for requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests for large indoor events. 

“Young people have shouldered a significant burden during this pandemic,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. “We look forward to now providing protection for this group to return to activities, especially as we look forward to the state fully reopening on June 15.” 

Ariana Keshishian is a City News Apprentice for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at ankeshis@uci.edu.