Today during a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) a group of independent experts voted 14-0 to recommend using Pfizer’s two-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 12 to 15 years old.
This was the last green-light needed for the vaccine, which can now be administered to all people 12 and up, as soon as ACIP’s formal recommendation is sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) later today. The move makes another 17 million Americans eligible for vaccination.
“This is another way to get closer to ending this horrible pandemic,” said ACIP member Camille Kotton, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital.
Reassuring safety data
During the meeting, officials from the CDC also clarified that the vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines, paving the way for it to become part of the standard of care for US school-aged children.
Presented at the meeting were reassuring safety data and facts about the pandemic’s effects on children: More than 22 million US children have contracted the virus, and 127 have died.
During a trial of the vaccine in 2,260 young teens, only one serious side effect was reported, a fever higher than 104°F. Twenty percent of trial participants reported lower fevers, all resolving within 2 days of injection. Other side effects were mild and self-limiting, including pain at the injection site and fatigue.
The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows 334,081,065 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the United States, and 263,132,561 doses have been administered, with 116,576,359, or roughly one third, of Americans fully vaccinated.
Biden urges teens to get vaccinated
In an address today, President Joe Biden urged all kids 12 and up to get vaccinated, and said beginning this week 15,000 pharmacies across the country will be able to vaccinate this age-group.
Biden also said he brokered a deal with Lyft and Uber to provide free rides to and from vaccine appointments through July.
Also by the end of this week, 60% of Americans will have had at least one dose of vaccine, Biden said. He once again emphasized the goal of 70% of those eligible having at least one dose by Jul 4, in an attempt to celebrate America’s independence from the virus.
Cases continue to drop in most areas
The United States reported 33,651 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 684 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.
Daily case counts and deaths are returning to numbers not seen since early last summer. New daily US COVID-19 cases fell 21.1% in the past week, according to data from the Washington Post. New daily reported deaths fell 11.2%, and COVID-related hospitalizations fell 12.1%.
But while most of the country is seeing a drastic dip in cases as vaccinations go up, the Pacific Northwest is setting a late spring fourth wave, National Public Radio reports.
In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee has paused reopening as hospitals in Seattle have continued to fill—many with young adults.
States elsewhere are moving closer to removing all COVID-19 restrictions. In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster signed an executive order that allows parents to opt their children out of mask requirements in schools, effectively ending mask mandates for schools throughout the state, the New York Times reports. McMaster is the first governor to sign such an order.
The order also banned the use of vaccine passports in the state.
“With the COVID-19 vaccine readily available and case numbers dropping, I will not allow local governments to use the state of emergency declaration as a reason for implementing or maintaining mask mandates,” said McMaster in a statement.
“Everybody knows what we need to do to stay safe—including wearing a mask if you’re at risk of exposing others—but we must move past the time of governments dictating when and where South Carolinians are required to wear a mask.”