Milwaukee pharmacies prepare for children 12+ to be eligible for Pfizer vaccine

NOW: Milwaukee pharmacies prepare for children 12+ to be eligible for Pfizer vaccine

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- People who are at least 16 years old are currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, but the federal government is poised to lower the eligibility age to 12 soon.

By early next week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 to 15 years old.

Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said about 300,000 Wisconsin children are in the age group.

"We're certainly preparing for it, and we'll be ready when and if it happens," Willems Van Dijk said of the FDA announcement.

DHS leaders said lowering the age group eligible for the vaccine will help decrease transmission of the virus.

"It's absolutely going to help, (but) not as much as if we took it all the way down to age six months or birth," Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases.

"Who has the highest rate incidence of infection right now? Children under age 18, who are ... largely not eligible for vaccine. And who has the lowest incidence of infection right now are people over 65, who have the highest rate of vaccine," Willems Van Dijk said.

Pharmacists at Hayat Pharmacy are also preparing for the FDA's announcement.

"It definitely opens up more patients that we can vaccinate," said pharmacist Dr. Lauren Splawn.

She encouraged anyone who is hesitant about the vaccine, including parents who need to make the decision for their children, to call a pharmacist.

"Even if these children or young adults at home may not have a serious symptoms, they might have family members at home who aren't vaccinated. So if they get vaccinated to help protect them, especially with them going back to school and being around other people, they have an increased risk of bringing COVID home and really impacting their family if they're not vaccinated," Splawn said.

Westergaard encouraged parents to examine the data.

In March, Pfizer said a clinical trial showed 100 percent efficacy among those 12 to 15 years old.

"We did not hear that there are any safety concerns. In general with many vaccines, younger people children and adolescents tend to amount very, very robust and very effective immune responses to vaccines," Westergaard said.

Willems Van Dijk said vaccinefinder.org is a great resource to find the Pfizer vaccine located at a clinic nearby.

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