May 12, 2021
Approximately 750,000 Pennsylvania teens are eligible for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine following the Food and Drug Administration granting emergency use authorization to the pharmaceutical giant.
Before administering the Pfizer shot to 12- to 15-year-olds, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia health officials are waiting for guidance from the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is set to meet on Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Vaccinating teens would help establish herd immunity. While they make up a smaller number of deaths overall, kids could still be carriers for the vaccine and contribute toward spread of the virus.
The two-dose vaccine earned the EUA last week after testing on more than 2,000 volunteers showed no cases of COVID-19 and strong antibody response.
"This is a watershed moment in our ability to fight back the COVID-19 pandemic," Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president who's also a pediatrician, told the Associated Press.
In Philadelphia, a spokesperson for the city health department said Philly and state officials are still waiting to hear from the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices before green-lighting the shot.
"The latest our clinics run today is till 5 p.m., which means that it is unlikely we will have the approval and required paperwork to be able to vaccinate 12- to 15-year-olds today," James Garrow said in an email to PhillyVoice. "If ACIP makes the recommendation that we expect, we will announce in a press statement this evening that vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds at clinics that have the Pfizer vaccine will begin Thursday morning."
However, health officials in Montgomery County said Tuesday they would immediately begin administering shots for teens in that age group, NBC10 reported.
"Under all relevant legal authority, once the FDA gives approval, a prescriber is permitted to prescribe the vaccine," Montgomery County spokesperson Kelly Cofrancisco said.
Still, state officials are waiting until the federal vaccine advisory committee signs off before making the doses available to teens.
"We are thrilled that the FDA's research has determined the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for individuals as young as 12," Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said in a statement Tuesday. "This means that approximately 750,000 more Pennsylvanians will be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19."
Nearly 300 children have died from COVID-19, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Policy Lab has been an advocate for the vaccine for children ages 12 to 15.
"We are increasingly concerned by some emerging commentary suggesting that there is less justification to vaccinate children than adults because the case fatality rate of COVID-19 is lower in children," the Lab shared in their latest COVID-19 outlook published last week.
The Philadelphia School District worked with CHOP and the Black Doctors COVID Consortium to invite all students over the age of 16 to get their vaccine. The organizations hosted teen-centered events to spread awareness.
On May 15, the Black Doctors COVID Consortium is hosting a celebration for the Class of 2021 at the Deliverance Evangelistic Church from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Students can get vaccinated from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. as well — no appointment necessary.