CINCINNATI — If the CDC approves Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12-15, shots could be available for kids in Cincinnati and all across Ohio on Thursday.
The Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization on Monday to allow the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in teens as young as 12. The next step is expected Wednesday, when the CDC votes on whether to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for the 12-to-15 age group.
“We are ready, as soon as we get final approval, we’ve got clinics Wednesday evening, Thursday evening at our base clinic and at (the Liberty campus) and on Saturday and we are ready to go,” said Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center chief of staff Dr. Patty Manning.
Children’s Hospital has already been hosting community clinics to vaccinate 16 and 17-year-olds, and hospital leaders say they expect the transition to the younger ages to be seamless.
“The Ohio Department of health has been working very closely with the hospitals and with... pediatric offices to try to channel the vaccine that would be more advantageous for children, the Pfizer vaccine,” said Dr. Robert Frenck, director of the Gamble Vaccine Research Center at Children's Hospital.
The FDA declared the Pfizer vaccine is safe and offers strong protection for younger teens based on testing of more than 2,000 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15. The agency noted there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared with 16 among kids given dummy shots. Researchers found the participants also developed higher levels of virus-fighting antibodies than earlier studies measured in young adults.
The Tri-State has been on the front lines of the effort to make the vaccine available for young teens. Florence pediatrician Dr. Amanda Dropic, who entered her children in a Pfizer clinical trial at Children's Hospital, said her family felt like it was their duty to get involved.
"As a parent it just makes me feel safer," Dropic said. "As a pediatrician, for some of my kids who are medically fragile, the sooner they can get the vaccine the better off. I'll feel safer for them."
Pediatricians, community clinics and even school systems like Mason City Schools will likely be the first to facilitate the vaccine for the 12-to-15 age group.
"I think getting vaccine to primary care clinics where families are used to going, where they have trusted care providers in those sites, is the next step,” Manning said. “And then Dr. Frenck and his team have done a great job at looking at locations such as Findlay Market, to be in the community so people don't have to travel as far. We really need to work on bringing the vaccine to where people are to address equity.”
In an email to parents on May 7, Mason Middle School said in part: “Once the FDA authorizes allowing the Pfizer shots to be given to 12 to 15 year olds and the CDC also signs off, families with 12 to 15 year old children will be able to sign their kids up for the Warren County Health Department vaccine clinics that are being held in the MMS Arena.”
Children's Hospital will be offering Pfizer vaccine at a clinic at Findlay Market starting Saturday starting at 10 a.m. There is also a portal to request a vaccine appointment on the Children’s Hospital website.
Adolescents between 12 and 15 will receive the Pfizer two-dose COVID-19 vaccine the same way those 16 and older do now; the shots will be given three weeks apart with the same dosage.
In a news release Monday, the FDA said the study data included more than 2,200 participants ages 12 to 15. Common side effects were similar to adults, with pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain.