2 big questions in push to vaccinate 12- to 15-year-olds

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID in 12- to 15-year-olds, FDA says
By: | May 11, 2021

Where 12- to 15-year-olds will get shots is the key question being asked after the FDA approved the Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for younger teens on Monday.

In trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID in 12- to 15-year-olds, who receive the same dosage as people 16 and older, the Food and Drug Administration said.

“Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement.

Approximately 1.5 million COVID cases in 11- to 17-year-olds were logged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from March 1, 2020, through April 30, 2021, the FDA said.

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Over the last few months, school districts across the country have partnered with healthcare providers to begin vaccinating students 16 and older. Administrators have told District Administration that offering the shots at school was the best way to expand access to all students.

“From an equity standpoint, one thing our high school students shared with is, if we wouldn’t have had clinics during the school day, they were concerned they wouldn’t be able to get to the vaccine because parents couldn’t take off work or transportation was a challenge for their families,” Christy Ziegler, the chief of student services at Shawnee Mission School District in Kansas, said last month.

But some officials expect to encounter more vaccine hesitancy among parents of younger children, The New York Times reported.

In Connecticut, Community Health Center plans to offer shots, to younger teens at amusement parks, beaches and camps. And Denver Health in Colorado will expand its school-based vaccination clinics to middle school students, according to The New York Times. 

Monday’s approval also raises the question of whether schools will require vaccines for COVID, as they do for diseases such as polio, measles and tetanus.

In January, outgoing Los Angeles USD Superintendent Austin Beutner said the district would require COVID vaccines once they were approved for students, according to U.S News & World Report. 

In Washington, Eatonville School District Superintendent Krestin Bahr told CBNC that her district would strongly encourage but not mandate that students get vaccinated.

Requiring the vaccination could convince some students—particularly those struggling with mental health issues—not to return to in-person instruction, Bahr told CNBC.