Appointments are completed quickly. Excited smiles hide behind the masks. The syringes are filled and the injections are ready to go to the arms.

The rollout of Pfizer and BioNTech’s covid-19 vaccines to children between the ages of 12 and 15 in the United States is reminiscent of when the first doses were given to adults late last year, said Dr. Lisa Costello, a pediatrician at the West Virginia University Children’s Hospital of Medicine and member of the Committee on State Government Affairs of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“This new age category, 12-15 years, has brought renewed hope. Many of the people I know who work at the various vaccination clinics have told me that it felt like December when we were getting those first shots, “Costello told Citizen Free Press on Tuesday. “People are very hopeful.”

A week has passed since the rollout for tweens and young teens began. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency use of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine in this age group on a Monday and then Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC) recommended it.

“In less than a week we have vaccinated more than 600,000 children ages 12 to 15,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a briefing at the White House on Tuesday.

About 3.5 million children between the ages of 12 and 17 have received at least one dose of the vaccine so far, according to the latest CDC data.

Walensky said his son was one of them.

‘A very strong demand’ for the vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 years

Both CVS and Walgreens pharmacies confirmed to Citizen Free Press via email Tuesday that their outlets continue to vaccinate teens ages 12-15, but neither company provided data on how many teens they have vaccinated.

Walgreens said there was “an increase in booked appointments, indicating an early interest from parents in vaccinating their children.”

It is still too early to say exactly how the nationwide rollout is going and where it is headed, but there appears to have been a “fairly rapid uptake” of the vaccine in this age group so far, Dr. Marcus told Citizen Free Press on Tuesday. Plescia, Chief Medical Officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

“This is something like what we have seen with the vaccine, that there are those who put it on quickly,” said Plescia. “There has been quite a strong demand. The question is: for how long and what percentage of that age group will be captured?

As deployment continues in this age group, the National Association of City and County Health Officials “will keep an eye out to see if anything comes up in terms of particular challenges, but none so far,” said Lori Freeman. , executive director of the association.

The rollout has been “very good so far,” but it’s only been a week, Freeman said.

“What has helped the most is having these diverse routes of distribution of the vaccine in the communities. They expanded the supply and created a natural environment to deploy another age group quite easily,” Freeman said.

“However, the focus must continue to be on finding adolescents where they are, where they live, where they play, where they pray. I think that will be key.”

Some states are already working to achieve this by establishing vaccination sites in schools and pediatrician offices.

Pediatricians have an important role

In West Virginia, efforts to reach teens appear to be going “better than expected,” Costello told Citizen Free Press. He added that there has been a lot of demand for the vaccine and enough supply to meet that demand.

“Our state took steps to prepare” in that regard, Costello said, ensuring that there was a sufficient supply to offer the vaccine to children younger than those ages.

“But I certainly believe that we must continue to work to build trust and share information,” he added. “We have to keep informing the public about where the vaccines are.”

Parents and guardians can go to to see where vaccines may be available for teens in their area. Costello said West Virginia is now working to provide more doses to pediatric offices so young people can get the vaccine directly from their doctors as part of their routine care.

Pediatricians are also expected to play an important role in the vaccination process in Tennessee, said Dr. Michelle Fiscus, medical director of the Tennessee Department of Health’s Immunization and Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Program. He said that in his state the deployment of the vaccine for children between the ages of 12 and 15 is going “quite well.”

“We have about 50 pediatric offices that have vaccines. Some of those are now transitioning to the Pfizer product in order to provide it to that younger age group, and the CDC told us yesterday that they have confirmed that smaller packages of the Pfizer vaccine will be available the week after Memorial Day.” Fiscus told Citizen Free Press on Tuesday.

Pfizer said in April that it will offer smaller shipments of its vaccine in late May so that vaccination sites have more flexibility in the number of doses they can order.

Current shipments include a package of 195 vials with 1,170 doses. The new smaller shipping size will include three packs of 25 vials for a total of 450 doses. Smaller shipments will be easier to manage for medical offices, which will also reduce the risk of waste.

“Some of them have been hesitant to order when they know they won’t be able to use a large number of vaccines, so this will be of great help,” said Fiscus, who further explained that “storage and handling requirements for the Pfizer’s vaccine can be a bit intimidating. ‘

The state of Tennessee is also working to combat vaccine concerns in rural communities, Fiscus said. “That was a tough nut to crack.”

Doubts about vaccines

Vaccine concerns have also been a cause for concern in New Jersey, Dr. Meg Fisher, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, told Citizen Free Press.

“We have heard from many children who are excited and interested in getting vaccinated,” Fisher said. “But we know that in New Jersey there are a lot of questions about vaccines. We hope that in time, with the right education and outreach, we can make the vaccine available to all who want it.”

New Jersey began vaccinating 12-15 year olds at the end of the week and officials are “very pleased” with how the process is going, Fisher said.

“So far we have vaccinated 29,333 and we have about 450,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15 years. So we certainly have a long way to go,” he added.

Local health departments are also working with school districts to have vaccination clinics in schools, Fisher said. “We think it will be an excellent way to reach children.”

One challenge thus far is that some clinics prefer to have a parent or guardian present to give consent for a minor to be vaccinated. Others only require a written note from the parent or verbal consent over the phone.

Fisher explained that the consent process is a “potential barrier” but that it is easily achievable and that it is what they are working on. One advantage is that many schools already have the flu vaccine.

Requirements for routinely vaccinating minors vary widely from state to state, and those variations also apply to COVID-19 doses, Jill Rosenthal, senior director of programs at the National Academy of State Health Policy, told Citizen Free Press last week.

Rosenthal explained that, for example, they vary depending on the ages and possible problems faced by minors.

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