Americans as young 12 begin to get vaccinated against Covid-19 after FDA's authorization

By Madeline Holcombe, Eric Levenson and Nick Valencia, CNN

    (CNN) -- Some vaccine sites began to inoculate 12-to-15-year-olds against Covid-19 on Tuesday morning, a day after the US Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer's vaccine for the age group.

Jacob Laney, 14, was in line at a Decatur, Georgia, vaccine site early Tuesday in hopes of getting the vaccine.

"My friend got Covid and it looked really bad, and I just did not want to get it," he told CNN. Once he gets both doses of Pfizer's two-dose vaccine, "I think I'll be less scared of getting it and less scared of having issues with Covid-19," he said.

Cameron Carrion, a 14-year-old whose mother watched CNN's interview with Jacob and then drove to the same vaccine site, said he felt good about getting the shot.

"I feel like it's better that I got it because I can go out more instead of just staying home and doing nothing," he said.

The shots are somewhat premature, as doctors are technically not supposed to start administering the vaccine to this age group until the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends they do so.

The CDC's adviser, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss it and then vote on the question in the early afternoon. That advice then goes to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who is very likely to give the go ahead within hours.

However, doctors already have the vaccine on hand, and the CDC's approval is a foregone conclusion. This is an area of medical practice regulated by states, but because the vaccine is already authorized and in offices, there is little to stop medical professionals from exercising their own judgment.

The FDA issued the emergency use authorization for Pfizer's vaccine for the younger age group after a clinical trial on 2,260 12-to-15-year-olds showed the vaccine had a 100% efficacy and was well tolerated.

"It was a relatively straightforward decision," Dr. Peter Marks, Director of FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, the arm of the FDA that regulates vaccines, told reporters Monday evening.

The FDA also set a meeting for next month for vaccine advisers to discuss authorizing vaccines for younger children.

As of Monday, 46% of all Americans have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to CDC data. Vaccinating young people will better protect them from contracting the virus and from spreading it to more vulnerable people, health experts said.

"This is big news," CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner told CNN's Erin Burnett. "The young in this country are now the reservoir of the virus, so if we are going to eradicate this virus, we have to vaccinate the young."

'It's time to go on offense'

Walgreens pharmacies will begin administering the vaccine to this age group after the CDC's approval, a corporate spokesperson said. CVS pharmacies will begin doing so after ACIP recommends it, the company told CNN.

But at Sandhills Pediatrics in Southern Pines, North Carolina, Dr. Christoph Diasio said he's preparing to start vaccinating as soon as possible.

"We've been playing defense for 15 months," said Diasio. "It's time to go on offense and end this thing."

Although many experts are optimistic about the expansion of vacations, pediatricians are concerned about the challenge of balancing scheduling Covid-19 shots with getting children up to date on their childhood vaccines.

"We have seen throughout the pandemic that there has been a decline in routine immunizations, and that does concern me greatly as a pediatrician because I know that many children have missed other important vaccines for diseases like measles or whooping cough -- which, like Covid-19, can be deadly," Dr. Lisa Costello, a pediatrician at WVU Medicine Children's Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on State Government Affairs, told CNN on Friday.

One study published in May 2020 by the CDC found that the number of childhood vaccines administered in Michigan dropped by as much as 22%.

Scheduling those vaccines could be a problem, because it's recommended to wait two weeks after getting the Covid-19 vaccine before getting other immunizations, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

"So, it's an interesting dilemma of how states and providers are going to think about trying to catch kids up at the same time that the Covid-19 vaccine is becoming available (for children ages 12 to 15) -- and particularly right now because a lot of the catch up routine immunizations happen as a result of school requirements," Jill Rosenthal, senior program director at the National Academy for State Health Policy, told CNN on Friday.

"Summer, maybe early fall, is a time where you see concerted efforts to make sure kids are fully immunized."

Covid-19 cases could result in long-term treatment even without hospitalization

Although younger people infected with Covid-19 may not be at as high of a risk of dying of the illness, experts caution that there may still be serious long-term effects.

People who tested positive but were not hospitalized over the course of their illness may face increased risk of certain symptoms such as blood clots or difficulty breathing, and appear to see their doctor more frequently, new data suggest.

But serious symptoms post-infection were rare.

In a study published Monday in The Lancet, researchers examined data from 8,983 unhospitalized Covid-19 patients in Denmark using data from national registries of patient information collected from February to March 2020. The study used the records of people who tested negative for Covid-19 as a control.

The risk of blood clots in unhospitalized Covid-19 patients was 0.2%, compared to 0.1% in the non-Covid-19 population. In-hospital difficulty breathing diagnoses occurred in 1.2% of the Covid-19 population, compared to 0.7% of the control population.

People with mild or asymptomatic Covid-19 were also at greater risk of starting bronchiodilator therapy to help breathing or a class of migraine drugs called triptans. There was no increased risks for other forms of medication. Unhospitalized Covid-19 patients also tended to see a doctor more often than the control group.

Regions making progress toward herd immunity

Some city and state leaders say they have made great strides in tackling the virus with immunizations.

In Connecticut, 71% of individuals who are 18 and over, and 80% of individuals 45 and over have received at least their first dose of the vaccine, according to Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont.

"We're very close to what they call herd immunity," Lamont said.

At the current rate of vaccination, Los Angeles County is expected to reach herd immunity by mid to late July, county health officials said in a press briefing Monday.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer explained that at least 400,000 residents need to be vaccinated each week before the county reaches this level of community immunity. The county still has about 1.5 million first doses to administer before 80% of all residents are vaccinated, according to Dr. Ferrer.

"The more and more people that get vaccinated, the less and less there's community transmission," Ferrer said.

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