Families await possible FDA approval for Pfizer vaccine in kids 12-15

State records show nearly 475,000 teens 16-19 have received at least one dose

SAN ANTONIO – As demand for vaccines in Texas falls off, could we soon see it rise among younger teens?

All Texans 16 years or older are eligible to be vaccinated, but only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for those under 18. The drug manufacturer believes its safe for younger teens, too.

Pfizer says its vaccine is safe for children as young as 12 years old and has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to amend its emergency use authorization to include the expanded age range.

“While the FDA cannot predict how long our evaluation of the data and information will take, we will review the request as expeditiously as possible using our thorough and science-based approach,” FDA acting commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock tweeted on April 9.

For families bringing in their older teens on Friday at the Wonderland of the Americas vaccination site, the idea of being able to get the shots for their younger children was a welcome one.

“I wish she was old enough to get vaccinated,” Desiree Alvarado said of her 13-year-old daughter.

Alvarado explained that her 16-year-old daughter, who received her second dose on Friday, is home-schooled for medical reasons. Because of the pandemic, her 13-year-old has been attending school virtually “because we don’t want her to possibly end up getting it and bring it at home.”

Casey Carlson was at the vaccination site Friday with her 19-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter. All of them were getting their second dose.

She has a 13-year-old daughter who is too young at the moment, but Carlson said she wouldn’t hesitate if eligibility opened up.

“Oh, yeah, we want a vacation this summer. We want to be vaccinated. We want to just get back to life,” Carlson said.

The Texas Department of State Health Services says its vaccine registry -- which doesn’t include doses administered by federal agencies like the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, or Board of Prisons -- shows nearly 475,000 doses have been administered to 16- to 19-year-olds. That equates to more than 364,000 teens who have received at least one dose, and 127,000 who are fully vaccinated.

In a media briefing on Thursday, Imelda Garcia, a DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services and chairwoman of the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, said the state plans to move quickly if the FDA expands the age range eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine.

“We are actively working with our providers in order to anticipate that pivot when we do have emergency authorization of the Pfizer vaccine,” Garcia said.

If the age range were to be expanded to include what are essentially middle-school-aged children on up, it begs the question if there will be vaccinations offered at school.

A spokeswoman said University Health, which is the largest vaccine provider in Bexar County, would not change its operations if the age ranges eligible for the vaccine were expanded. Though it has had communications with school districts and other organizations, spokeswoman Elizabeth Allen said UH does not plan to offer the vaccine on campuses.

“We’re still just using the Pfizer, and that requires the ultra-cold refrigeration. So it’s much easier to do it in one place rather than take it on the road,” Allen said.

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