Texas health experts address vaccine hesitancy following Pfizer authorization for kids ages 12 to 15

Texas Coronavirus Vaccine

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thursday, some of the first Texans between the ages of 12 and 15 are getting their first COVID-19 vaccine dose.

The move comes after the Texas Department of State Health Services told providers to begin administering Pfizer shots to children ages 12 to 15.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had authorized the Pfizer vaccine for that age group on Monday, and on Wednesday a federal advisory committee on immunization practices recommended it.

According to health experts, clinical trials among adolescents show the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to have an even higher efficacy rate among adolescents than young adults (16-25 years old).

Thursday, a panel of health experts from across Texas addressed parents’ concerns while urging them to vaccinate their children.

“This latest FDA authorization is great news for Texas families,” said Children at Risk President and CEO Dr. Bob Sanborn. “It is a first step in giving parents greater peace of mind and returning children to less stressful and restrictive learning environments.”

As of May 10, 39.13% of Texas adults are fully vaccinated. The FDA said children make up 22.4% of reported COVID-19 cases, and while children have been less likely to be hospitalized because of COVID-19 so far, they are not without risk.

“There’s so much bad information out there on the internet, just lies and things that have been made up,” said Dr. Claire Bocchini, Texas Children’s Hospital Infectious Disease expert. “I can’t tell you how many people have asked me about fertility concerns. These vaccines do not cause infertility.”

More than 2,000 children enrolled in the Pfizer vaccine trial and Dr. Bocchini said the efficacy for symptomatic lab-confirmed cases was 100%. Health experts said those are some good odds to get the ball rolling.

“They are seeing so much Zoom fatigue out there. They are just online in the classroom all day, and they’re disengaging,” said Mary Garr, president of the San Antonio Family Services Organization.

Garr and Dr. Bocchini said the vaccine is crucial to boost adolescents’ mental health needs, and although adolescents are less at risk for COVID-19 complications, some have experienced lingering symptoms.

“In adolescents who get this disease, they may have suffered from longer symptoms that they have for months or not feeling like themselves,” said Bocchini. “Just in the 12 to 17 year age group, data from the CDC shows that there have been over 1.5 million reported cases, over 13,000 hospitalizations, with approximately one third in intensive care and 127 deaths.”

Wednesday, Family Hospital Systems closed down its mass vaccine hub site at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex. Now it’s shifting operations to the Whitestone Boulevard location in Cedar Park, which began vaccinating children on Thursday following the FDA and CDC’s approval.

“This is a wonderful time for us to transition from our vaccine hub to our brick-and-mortar facility,” said Family Hospital Systems’ Jen Stratton. “We already have the equipment and staff to seamlessly transition.”

Stratton said 100 parents have already signed up their children on the waitlist.

The Department of Health and Human Services said parental consent is required for the vaccination of children in this age group. Officials said consent may be given orally or in writing.

DSHS said the parent or guardian does not need to be present for the adolescent to be vaccinated, unless required by the vaccine provider.

Right now only Pfizer vaccine has been authorized, but experts expect more authorizations to come.

“I expect the other mRNA vaccine, Moderna, will be very close to follow,” said Bocchini.

H-E-BCVS, and Walgreens are offering appointments now to those ages 12 through 15. To locate other vaccine providers, visit covidvaccine.texas.gov or vacunacovid.texas.gov.

Pfizer also announced plans to seek emergency use authorization for children ages 2 to 11 as early as September.

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