The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that providers across the Commonwealth can begin vaccinating those aged 12-15 following federal approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in adolescents. The vaccine previously was approved for use in those aged 16 and older, while two other available vaccines are approved for those 18 and older.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those aged 12-15 Wednesday, accepting the recommendation of its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which met earlier in the day to review safety data for the vaccine in this age group. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday amended the vaccine’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to include those aged 12-15.
“Generally, adolescents who contract COVID-19 usually do not develop severe symptoms, but they contribute to the spread of COVID-19. Vaccinating adolescents, along with the rest of Virginia’s eligible population, will help stop the spread of COVID-19 and make our communities safer,” said Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s vaccination coordinator. “Getting this safe, effective vaccine means that these adolescents won’t have to miss school, sporting events or other activities if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19, taking another step toward getting their lives back to normal.”
In the Pfizer-BioNTech clinical trial with about 2,000 participants aged 12–15, the vaccine was found to be 100 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 occurring at least seven days after the second dose. It is typical for a new vaccine to be studied in adults first, and then to gradually include younger age groups.
“This is great news. Like everyone else, our young people have had their lives disrupted over the past year. Vaccination will allow all of us to come together with the assurance that we are doing everything we can to protect ourselves and each other. I urge families to make vaccination a priority for everyone who qualifies to be vaccinated,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “Millions of people already have been vaccinated, and the FDA and the CDC continue to monitor COVID-19 vaccines for side effects. This is indeed our shot at ending this pandemic and saving lives.”
According to the weekly American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) State-Level Data Report, as of May 6, 2021, over 3.85 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with 102,682 cumulative cases in children in Virginia. Children represented 14 percent of all cases in the U.S., and 15.5 percent in Virginia.
Administration of the vaccine in adolescents will be the same as in adults: given in two doses, separated by 21 days. Adolescents are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving the second dose. Side effects in this age group included pain or redness in the arm where the vaccine is given, fatigue, fever and muscle aches.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is the only one approved for use in those under 18 years of age, so parents and guardians should ensure that vaccine is offered before scheduling an appointment or attending a walk-in clinic. To schedule an appointment, adolescents and their parents or guardians can:
- Go to virginia.gov, and search for locations offering Pfizer-BioNTech
- Call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682)
- Speak with their primary care provider
In most cases, adolescents must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian and be accompanied by a parent, guardian or someone acting in the place of a guardian to receive a vaccine. In a school setting, written consent is required, but a parent or guardian is not required to be present. It is recommended that you check with the facility that is offering the vaccination about consent and who needs to accompany the adolescent. Additionally, sites run by the Virginia Department of Health require the parent or guardian verbally confirm a minor’s date of birth; however, other providers may require additional proof of age.
For more information about COVID-19 in Virginia and the Commonwealth’s ongoing efforts in the pandemic, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.