Clinical tests find Pfizer vaccine is 100% effective in preventing the virus.

RICHMOND – All Virginia kids between 12 and 15 can now get the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Danny Avula made the announcement Wednesday, after multiple federal agencies gave approval.

“Generally, adolescents who contract COVID-19 usually do not develop severe symptoms, but they contribute to the spread of COVID-19,” Avula said. “Getting this safe, effective vaccine means that these adolescents won’t have to miss school, sporting events or other activities if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19.”

Both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control approved use of the Pfizer vaccine on older children this week.

Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock expanded on the decision to move forward with vaccines for tweens and teens.

“Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic,” Woodcock said. “Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations.”

Those 12 to 15 will receive the same dosage and dosing regimen as those age 16 and older. That means tweens and teens will have a series of two vaccine doses, three weeks apart.

Virginia Kids Get Clinical Trial

The May 6 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Report said over 3.85 million children in the U.S. tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. That includes 102,682 cases in Virginia. Children represented 14% of all cases in the U.S. and 15.5% in Virginia.

As with all vaccinations, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine underwent trials before medical professionals recommended it to the general public. That includes trials specifically designed for children.

The clinical trial included 2,260 participants ages 12 through 15. Of those selected, 1,131 children received the vaccine and 1,129 received a saline placebo. For safety, the study followed more than half of the participants for at least two months following the second dose.

The most common side effects were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain.

The trial produced astoundingly positive results. It found the vaccine 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 occurring at least seven days after the second dose.

That does not mean every tween or teen in American needs to rush to their nearest vaccination clinic. One group should take precautions. The FDA cautioned against giving the Pfizer vaccine to anyone with a known history of a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine. Since its authorization for emergency use, some Pfizer vaccine recipients reported rare, severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.

Expressing Concerns

When you become a parent, you want to protect your child in every possible way. For some parents, those methods look different.

We spoke to parents on both sides of the vaccine debate in Danville and Pittsylvania County.

Several parents expressed concerns over the vaccine.

Both Rachel Fuqua and Amanda Orrell expressed similar concerns. They cited the potential for unknown long-term impacts.

Others indicated that their children would not receive the vaccine.

“Absolutely not,” Sarah Thomason said. “I will not allow my children to be ‘test subjects.’”

Amy Cash-Cox expressed concerns over the “effect this vaccine could have on people down the road.”

Laura Chaleby noted her concerns in a few main points.

“Research indicates that children, especially younger children, are affected more mildly than adults. I have seen this to be true in my life,” Chaleby said. “[Also], natural immunity to an illness is better than man made as long as the illness is not life threatening.”

Vaccination Intentions For Virginia Kids

Parents also noted their intentions to vaccinate their children.

“When it is approved and used on children yes, most likely,” said Grace Davis. “There are plenty of other vaccines they give children that we still don’t know much about. Yet to start school – they make you have them. There is no problem between this vaccine and the rest of them.”

Kelsey Griffin intends to vaccinate her children, citing preexisting health concerns.

“Yes, my youngest has respiratory issues and I would do anything to help prevent something that could affect that,” Griffin said. “He is one to [get] sick frequently and to be down and out for weeks with a simple cold or virus. I don’t like to imagine what COVID would be like for him.”

Wendy Amos also planned to schedule an appointment for her teenage daughter.

“My child is 15 and I plan on getting her vaccinated,” Amos said. “I don’t want to have to worry about her getting COVID and having to miss out on more stuff. And, the sooner we can get back to normal.”

Across the State

For those that do choose the vaccination route, University of Virginia Health announced on Wednesday afternoon that adolescents may receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine as early as Friday. The vaccination clinic will take place at the Vaccination Center at Seminole Square. Parents or guardians must schedule an appointment for their child and must accompany them to the vaccination event.

Adolescent vaccines begin on Saturday in Arlington for residents and children within the Arlington-area school system. Approximately 8,000 children aged 12 to 15 live in Arlington.

“This is a critical milestone in our pandemic response. We encourage all parents to get their children vaccinated when they become eligible,” said Dr. Reuben Varghese, Arlington County Public Health Director. “The vaccine is the best form of protection against COVID-19. The more people protected, the better it is for ourselves and for our community.”

Arlington will offer Saturday through Monday clinics over the next two weekends for Virginia kids between 12 to 17, to help meet anticipated demand for the vaccine.

Parents or guardians must schedule an appointment for their child and must accompany them to the vaccination event. At the appointment, accompanying adults must provide a form of identification, such as a driver’s license, pay stub or utility bill.

Know Before You Go

The Virginia Department of Health noted that in most cases, kids must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian. Also, they have to be accompanied by a parent, guardian or someone acting in the place of a guardian to receive a vaccine.

School settings require written consent in lieu of parental presence.

The VDH recommended that people check with the facility offering the vaccination about consent and inquire about who needs to accompany the child in question.

Sites run by the VDH require that the parent or guardian verbally confirm a minor’s date of birth. However, other providers may require additional proof of age.

To schedule an appointment, Virginia kids and their parents or guardians can:

  • Go to virginia.gov and search for locations offering Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682)
  • Speak with their primary care provider

Amie Knowles reports for Dogwood. You can reach her at amie@couriernewsroom.com