COVID-19 Vaccinations for Children as Young as 12 Begin Today

Frank Diamond

Frank Diamond has been with Infection Control Today since November 2019. He has more than 30 years of experience working for magazines, newspapers, and television news.

A growing avalanche of real-world evidence attests to the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccinations. The more people of every age group who can be vaccinated the better, says the CDC.

CVS Caremark Corporation wasted no time in taking a cue from Rochelle Walensky, MD, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who yesterday said that COVID-19 vaccinations for children as young as 12 could start “right away.”

As CNN reports: “The vaccine will be available for children 12-15 starting [today] in more than 5,600 [CVS] locations nationwide…. Appointment scheduling is available now, and walk-In vaccinations will be possible at locations that have the Pfizer vaccine.”

Younger people are less likely to get COVID-19 and to be asymptomatic carriers, and even when they are infected, they’re less likely to suffer from severe outcomes. Nonetheless, the fact that they could not be vaccinated represented, in the minds of many medical experts, a troublesome speedbump in America’s effort to reach herd immunity, and for a very small number of children the after-effects of COVID-19 infection can be serious, leading to multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).

In a statement yesterday, Walensky said: “CDC now recommends that this vaccine be used among this population, and providers may begin vaccinating them right away.”

The decision comes as the U.S continues to emerge from the pandemic. New COVID-19 cases declined in 37 states last week, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of new cases per day in the U.S. dipped below 40,000 last week, a 21% improvement over the previous week, according to the CDC. Deaths from COVID-19 are about 600 a day, their lowest level since last July, according to the Associated Press. Over 107 million Americans have gotten both doses of the vaccine, and the growing body of real-world evidence attests to their effectiveness.

Some of that real-world evidence was presented by the Cleveland Clinic. In a press release today, the Clinic said that of approximately 4300 people admitted to the hospital since January 1, 2021 for COVID-19, 99% of those patients had not been vaccinated. In addition, the Clinic looked at about 2000 of its health care employees who had contracted COVID-19 and found that 99.7% of those had not been vaccinated. As Infection Control Today® has reported, vaccine hesitancy among health care professionals has been a problem that infection preventionists have had to grapple with. Many health care workers seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach to getting the vaccine, and the real-world data—such as that presented by the Cleveland Clinic—may assuage their concerns.

Eduardo Mireles, MD, the Cleveland Clinic’s director of the medical intensive care unit, said in the statement: “This vaccine is highly effective to prevent our community from getting sick, not only our caregivers but the community. We have data on both. It cannot be more clear the message that vaccines work and it’s the key action that we need to do to get back to our normal lives as they were before coronavirus.”

Walensky released her statement after the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted yesterday to recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The panel vote was 14 in favor with one recusal to allow the vaccine to be used in this pediatric group.

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine allowing administration of it in children aged 12-15 years old.

In her statement yesterday giving the go-ahead for vaccinating children as young as 12, Walensky said that “this official CDC action opens vaccination to approximately 17 million adolescents in the United States and strengthens our nation’s efforts to protect even more people from the effects of COVID-19. Getting adolescents vaccinated means their faster return to social activities and can provide parents and caregivers peace of mind knowing their family is protected.”

Walensky also addressed the problem of vaccine hesitancy among the public. “Some parents have already made plans for their adolescents to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” Walensky said in the statement. “Understandably, some parents want more information before their children receive a vaccine. I encourage parents with questions to talk to your child’s healthcare provider or your family doctor to learn more about the vaccine. And if your adolescent is behind on routinely recommended vaccines due to the pandemic or for other reasons, now would be a good time to work with your child’s nurse or doctor to make sure they get caught up.”