State public-health officials on Monday began allowing Alaska parents to sign up their children 12 and up for COVID-19 vaccine appointments, which will begin as early as Wednesday.
That move is in response to a Monday decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to grant an Emergency Use Authorization to drug company Pfizer for use of its new vaccine for people ages 12 through 15.
A federal advisory committee to the CDC is scheduled to review the data from the FDA and give its final recommendations early in the day on Wednesday, said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, during a call with reporters. The CDC will then offer their recommendation on Wednesday, too.
“We do anticipate that they will likely also recommend this vaccine for those 12 to 15,” Zink said.
With those final approvals, Alaska vaccine providers will have the green light to begin vaccinating kids 12 and up, likely late Wednesday afternoon, Zink said — which is why Wednesday is the first day available for appointments.
“We are ecstatic that it has an emergency use authorization, and that we can have more Alaskans protected from COVID-19,” Zink said. “While children tend to do very well with COVID, they tend to be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, we still see kids get sick, we still see kids hospitalized, and we know that they can spread it to adults,” she said.
Pfizer’s vaccine had already been approved in the U.S. and in Alaska for teens as young as 16, and Canada recently became the first to expand use to 12 and up.
Many parents, school administrators and public health officials around the world have eagerly awaited approval for the shot to be made available to more kids.
“This is really an important step forward in our ability to protect children from COVID-19,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s state epidemiologist, during call with reporters on Monday.
In Alaska, 23 kids under the age of 16 have so far been hospitalized with COVID-19 — and at least eight developed a serious inflammatory syndrome after recent COVID-19 infections, according to a recent report from state health officials.
The federal decision was based on an assessment by the FDA that the Pfizer vaccine is both safe and effective for young people based on trials conducted in more than 2,000 kids ages 12 to 15.
During that trial, no cases of COVID-19 occurred in the vaccinated group of 1,131 children, while 18 of the 1,129 children in the placebo group did test positive for the virus.
There are over 40,000 Alaskans ages 12 through 15 in the state. Officials say the state has enough Pfizer vaccine for them, though they’re not yet sure what the uptake will be.
“We do have enough Pfizer vaccine in stock, and have been anticipating this move, and are excited for Wednesday afternoon,” Zink said.
The state is now in the process of updating its vaccine scheduling sites to reflect the change, she added.
Parents can now start scheduling vaccine appointments for Wednesday and beyond for their children by visiting covidvax.alaska.gov or calling 907-646-3322.
Parents should make sure the clinic they’re selecting has Pfizer vaccine available, as it is the only vaccine that has been authorized for use in children.
Many pediatricians and doctors offices will be able to provide the vaccine to children as well, and parents can contact their child’s doctor to see if that’s an option.