U.S. regulators recommended on Monday to expand the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12 to protect children before they go back to school in the fall.
Meanwhile, MU Health Care is busy preparing to welcome children between the ages of 12 and 15 at a vaccination clinic May 20. The clinic will be from 4 to 8 p.m. — a convenient time for parents to drive to after school. MU Health Care is waiting for the federal vaccine advisory committee to issue its statement in support of the expansion, which is expected Wednesday.
“(May 20) is the date that we feel confident we’ll be ready and everything will be fully approved,” said Laura Morris, family medicine physician and vaccine co-chair at MU Health Care.
Boone Health also has vaccine appointments available Thursday and Saturday for people as young as 12 at the Columbia Mall.
Slots are also available Friday and Saturday at multiple locations of the Hy-Vee Pharmacy in Columbia.
Teenagers will need consent from their parents or legal guardians to get their shots. That is why Morris stressed the importance of reaching parents in a call to vaccinate their children.
“I happen to be a parent to two children that are in this age group,” Morris said. “And I can tell parents that your children play a really important role in ensuring the safety of others in your family.”
Apart from protecting elderly relatives or younger siblings, vaccination for youngsters means they will be able to resume normal social activities.
“(Getting vaccinated means that) your children can have a normal social experience this summer, that they can play sports and go to camp and see friends,” Morris said.
She also underscored the importance of vaccination in resuming normal schooling.
“I fully and competently believe that this vaccine is safe,” she said, “and I plan to vaccinate my children as soon as possible.”
Parents should not worry about unexpected side effects for their teens, Morris said. Trials for the Pfizer vaccine show they are no different from the symptoms adults get, including possible soreness, headaches and fatigue.
Morris said it comes down to parents driving their 12-to-15-year-old kids to vaccine clinics, as those in this age range can’t travel on their own or get out of school easily. MU Health Care will take steps to make appointment slots as accessible as possible.
Without vaccinating teenagers, Morris said, the U.S. will be unable to reach herd immunity. Young people make up 20% of the population.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction, because this age group likes to be very social,” Morris said. “And we want to help make sure that they’re protected while they are socializing.”
MU Health Care will provide more information about the sign-up process for adolescents as soon as the approval of the vaccine is finalized. More information will be available on its website in the upcoming days.