The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12-15 Monday.
The expansion “is a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic” and brings “us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy,” FDA Acting Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a prepared statement.
The move comes after Pfizer, which was the only vaccine authorized for use on teens ages 16-18, released preliminary vaccine study results in March from 2,260 volunteers ages 12-15 that found no cases of COVID-19 among the fully vaccinated teens.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s federal vaccine advisory committee is set to meet Wednesday to discuss the Pfizer vaccine’s expansion, and once approved by the committee, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which includes California, is set to do its own review, allowing 12- to 15-year-olds to start getting shots as early as later this week.
Dr. Morris Yen, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital’s chief of pediatric medicine, said this is exciting news, as the vaccine has been proven to be not only effective in preventing severe infection, but also safe, with no major side effects, even in the 12-and-older populations, including in children with high-risk conditions.
While children have not been shown to be as affected by the virus as adults, health experts still suggest that they get the vaccine, when possible.
“I think it’s a blessing that, for the most part, kids have shown to do very well, even when they’ve caught COVID, but … there have been some hospitalizations and long-lasting effects on some kids — not many, but even a few (is enough),” Yen said, adding that these children, along with those with high-risk conditions, such as autoimmune diseases or asthma, who can still get very sick with COVID-19, are, in part, why vaccinations are recommended.
With children under the age of 16 making up 25% of the population, it should also be noted that this population receiving their vaccines is considered an important step to the nation achieving herd immunity, which Dr. Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert and the chief medical adviser to the president, has said requires a vaccination rate of about 80%.
“You’re going to need some of those kids to be protected against COVID so it doesn’t spread among our community,” Yen added. “Hopefully, very soon, if we have herd immunity, then we can return full time for restaurants and movie theaters and to school, most importantly.”
About 56% of eligible Santa Clarita Valley residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Los Angeles County Department of Public Health data through May 2.
In the city of Santa Clarita alone, more than 103,000, or 58.6% of residents, have received at least one dose.
As of May 5, more than 8.3 million total doses of the vaccine had been administered in L.A. County, 3.2 million of which were reportedly second doses.
Approximately 4.8 million eligible county residents over 16 years old, or 58.2%, have reportedly received at least one dose, while 82.4% of seniors over the age of 65 have been vaccinated.
“These are really impressive numbers … but we have more work to do if we want to really contain the spread of this virus,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “There are still over 3 million eligible residents across the county of Los Angeles that have yet to be vaccinated, and that number will only grow as younger people are cleared for the vaccine.”
Public Health also released the following updated COVID-19 statistics Monday:
New COVID-19 cases reported in L.A. County in the past 24 hours: 179
Total COVID-19 cases in L.A. County: 1,235,797
New deaths related to COVID-19 reported: 4
Total COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County: 24,003
Hospitalizations countywide: 389
Hospitalizations at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital as of May 10: 4, with 1,229 discharged since the onset of the pandemic.
COVID-19 cases reported in the Santa Clarita Valley in the past 24 hours: 20, 7 of which came from the city of Santa Clarita.
Total COVID-19 cases in the SCV: 27,722
Total COVID-19 deaths in the SCV as of May 9: 302
Percentage of vaccinated people (at least one dose) in the city of Santa Clarita as of May 2: 58.6%
Percentage of vaccinated people (at least one dose) in the SCV as of May 2: 56%
For more information on L.A. County’s vaccination efforts, visit VaccinateLACounty.com.