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Healthcare providers in Colorado prep to vaccinate kids ages 12-15

The FDA is expected to announce emergency use authorization for kids 12-15 to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by next week.

COLORADO, USA — Colorado healthcare providers are preparing for vaccine eligibility to expand to more adolescents between the ages of 12-15 years old.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to announce emergency use authorization (EUA) for this age group to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by next week.

How many Coloradans does this potentially affect?

“We estimate there are slightly more than 299,000 12-15 year-olds in Colorado,” the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) Director of Communications Jessica Bralish said.

How are Colorado healthcare providers getting ready?

“We already have a vaccine clinic being set up for ages 16-21 next weekend,” Dr. Reginald Washington, chief medical officer for the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children (RMHC) in Denver, told 9NEWS. “It’ll be a simple matter of extending that down to 12-21 at our hospital.”

“As more people become eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, Denver Health will make it available at additional locations including other Denver Health community health centers and school based health centers and community events,” a Denver Health spokesperson said in a statement. 

Both Denver Health and Children’s Hospital Colorado have been administering the Pfizer vaccine to Coloradans 16 and older for weeks.

“Children’s Colorado is excited to begin welcoming Coloradans ages 12 and older to our vaccine clinics as soon as the FDA expands its emergency use authorization to ages 12-15,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

CDPHE is also confident that they will be ready if and when the new EUA is announced.

“Our Joint Vaccine Task Force is nimble and we will update our vaccine protocols as quickly as possible if further authorizations are provided under guidance from the FDA and CDC,” the department said.

Is there enough supply?

Once the FDA releases their expanded EUA, they are planning to ship Pfizer doses to 20,000 pharmacies across the country.

Washington does not anticipate any supply constraints that would prevent this new age group, and their eligible family members, to be able to participate in the RMHC's first adolescent vaccine clinic.

“We are fortunate in this country to have an abundant supply of the Pfizer vaccine. Even though we don’t have exact numbers yet, I think we will be safely able to vaccine anyone who wants it,” Washington said.

In the coming weeks, the federal government will also send doses straight to pediatricians.

“I don’t think upon immediate release, pediatricians will have an abundant supply of the vaccine,” Washington explained when talking about how Pfizer’s storage constraints may limit the amount of doctor’s offices able to house the vaccines. “They will eventually, but I think going to clinics that are set up for this purpose would probably be the most efficient way to get the vaccine initially.”

How do I sign a child up?

Until the FDA releases their new EUA for the 12-15 age group, only Americans 16 and older can be signed up for the vaccine.

For next weekend’s Pfizer clinic at Rock Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver (RMHC), adults can sign-up their children and will need to select “Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children" when prompted for a location.

Children will not need to bring a form of identification to RMHC’s event. Parents must consent that they are giving accurate age information when signing up.

“Parental consent is required in order for minors to receive the vaccine,” CDPHE said. “Some providers will ask for insurance and/or identification, but it is not required to get vaccinated. Parents will need to sign a parental consent form.”

State community vaccination sites will also be able to administer the vaccine to individuals ages 12-15 when the time comes.

“We are working with our providers to prepare for this potential authorization as well,” CDPHE said.

Vaccine-eligible community members can sign up to receive the vaccine at a Children’s Colorado vaccine clinic using their web portal.

Denver Health also provides Pfizer doses at some of their locations.

“We will continue to offer Pfizer vaccines at our community health centers at Sam Sandos Westside Pediatrics, Bernard F. Gipson Sr. Eastside Pediatrics, as well as on our main campus through the Wellington E. Webb Center for Primary Care,” Denver Health’s spokesperson said. 

> Watch video above: Pfizer says vaccine 100% effective for kids 12-15

What research is there?

Although there is an ongoing study of long-term vaccine effects for kids 12-15 years old, initial results the FDA released in March show that children have responded well to the Pfizer doses.

About 2,200 kids in this age group were a part of the study.

“[The ones that got the Pfizer shot, not the placebo] had a few side effects that are similar to those seen in the adult population, but no more serious than that,” Washington said. “Their response has been greater than it has been in other populations, meaning their response to the vaccine is very favorable, and no one in the treated group got COVID after receiving the vaccine.”

So far, Pfizer would be the only vaccine that would have an FDA EUA.

“Moderna is also undergoing trials, and I anticipate they will probably seek permission in the near future,” Washington said.

Are school districts playing a role?

9NEWS reached out to multiple districts to see if there were any plans they could share with the public in anticipation of the FDA’s announcement.

None of the districts that responded would divulge those details.

“We do not yet have anything specific planned for vaccination clinics for 12-15 year-olds,” a spokesperson for Jefferson County Public Schools said. “[Our director of health services said] she is in conversation with one of our health care providers, Stride Community Health, about what options there may be going forward.”

Denver Public Schools said they will continue to work with Denver Health and Children’s to offer vaccines for students.

“We are very excited about what this means for a more normal return to school next year,” DPS spokesperson Winna Maclaren said.

Douglas County Schools is currently focused on providing vaccine information for their students over the age of 16

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