Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 12 to 15 Monday, there will likely be a rush of parents looking to get their children vaccinated for summer and before the fall school year begins.
U.S. regulators on Monday expanded use of Pfizer's shot to those as young as 12. The two-dose vaccine was already authorized for use in people 16 and older.
The FDA's decision doesn't mean vaccinations can begin right away, however.
The FDA's ruling will now be followed by a meeting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's federal vaccine advisory committee, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (known as ACIP), to discuss whether to recommend the shot for 12- to 15-year-olds.
The ACIP has already set an emergency meeting for Wednesday. According to a previously posted agenda on the CDC's website, the committee will meet virtually beginning at 10 a.m. CT, with a vote scheduled to take place after discussion beginning at 1:45 p.m.
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At Northwestern Children’s Practice in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, pediatricians have already said they had the Pfizer vaccine ready to go in the specialized freezer it requires. Parents can schedule the shots for kids in the approved age group once the FDA and the CDC give the okay.
But the subzero storage may be a challenge for some pediatricians to offer it in-office.
“I think a lot of parents probably would feel more comfortable getting in their pediatrician's office, but whether you get it at the pediatrician or the pharmacy or health department, I think the shot is the shot at that point,” Dr. Scott Goldstein, a pediatrician at Northwestern Children’s Practice said.
A spokesperson for Cook County Health said administrators at its five locations offering the Pfizer vaccine will welcome children, accompanied by a parent, once both the FDA and CDC give the green light. Parents can make appointments and walk-ins will also be welcome.
Chris Hoff, the Director for Community Health Resources in DuPage County, said children ages 12-15, accompanied by a parent, will also be accepted at the community vaccination site at the DuPage County Fairgrounds.
“The goal will be to make sure the vaccine is widely available to a group that really should be prioritized for vaccine, especially as we look to school in the fall and reduction in transmission all over the community,” Hoff said.
In a statement, Hannah Goering, spokesperson for the Lake County Health Department, said last week the department is "still working through the details on logistics and are eagerly awaiting this authorization."
"In addition to offering appointments (with a parent or legal guardian present) at our mass vaccination sites, we are working with area pediatricians and family medicine doctors to help get them set up to offer COVID-19 to their child patients and their families and have over 100 healthcare providers lined up so far," Goering wrote.
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital is now scheduling appointments for ages 16 and up, and will offer appointments to age 12 to 15 once approval happens.
A spokesperson for Advocate Children’s Hospital said the hospital "will be ready immediately to begin scheduling adolescents 12-15."
"We are currently already doing ages 16-18," the spokesperson said. "Will not have to be Advocate Aurora patients—we will immunize anyone in that age group. We cannot schedule until approval, but parents will be able to go to www.aah.org to schedule, once approved.”
Pfizer isn’t the only company seeking to lower the age limit for its vaccine. Results also are expected by the middle of this year from a U.S. study of Moderna’s vaccine in 12-to -17-year-olds. Pfizer is currently authorized for use on people ages 16 and up, while Moderna is authorized for people 18 and older.
What about younger kids? According to experts, those under 12 likely won't be able to receive the COVID vaccine until later this year or early next year.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have started studies in the U.S. surrounding the vaccine and children ages 6 months to 11 years. Results on those studies could come sometime in the fall.