Following CDC approval, Vermont 12-15 year olds can now receive Pfizer vaccine


COVID-19 vaccination registration will open to Vermonters ages 12 to 15 at 8:15 a.m. Thursday.

Parents or caregivers can schedule appointments on the Vermont Department of Health website. The health department is also working with the Agency of Education to offer school-based clinics with daytime and evening hours, and new additions will be added to a listing on the agency website.

The FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in the 12 to 15 age group earlier this week, and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices followed suit on Wednesday.

Ahead of registration, a local health expert helped answer some common questions about use of the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents.

Dr. Benjamin Lee is a pediatric infectious disease expert at UVM Medical Center, and said the CDC’s ruling follows months of careful and rigorous studies. In a trial of over 2,000 adolescents, the Pfizer vaccine was found to be 100 percent effective at preventing COVID-19. The reported side effects were the same ones seen in adults, such as nausea, fatigue and muscle aches.

“Every indication that we have tells us that this vaccine behaves in 12 to 15 year olds in the exact same way that it does for those who are over 16,” Dr. Lee said.

Given that otherwise healthy kids are less likely to experience severe illness from COVID-19, some may wonder why their son or daughter should get vaccinated. Dr. Lee offered two reasons – the first being the very real possibility of ‘long-haul COVID’, or symptoms that last well beyond initial diagnosis.

“Even if that’s not the same as having a child critically ill in the hospital, I think in terms of quality of life and long-term effects, we are seeing this is happening with our children.”

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine has offered the same reminder at multiple COVID-19 briefings, even sharing the story of a woman who lost her taste and sense of smell indefinitely after a COVID-19 diagnosis to warn Vermonters about the less-discussed impacts of the virus.

Dr. Lee also said the impact of this last year on adolescents is reason to get vaccinated. All the missed interactions, hours of screen time and isolation, and now, an opportunity to reclaim what was taken away.

“You know, for the first time, the teens now have a way they can actually do something active and take their lives back,” Dr. Lee said. “We shouldn’t underestimate how much good it will do.”

That sentiment is also present in the Department of Health’s latest campaign aimed at reducing vaccine hesitancy.

On Wednesday, it launched an outreach series featuring dozens of Vermonters who shared what getting vaccinated meant to them.

“It’s important that Vermonters share their stories with other Vermonters,” Dr. Levine said. “We all have different reasons for choosing to get vaccinated, but for many of us, being able to get back to the things we miss is high on that list. These stories help connect the dots from vaccines to the brighter future ahead.”

The new series can be viewed now on the department’s YouTube channel, and will be promoted widely – including on television, streaming services, radio, social media and more.

Anyone looking for a walk-in appointment to get vaccinated should visit the Department of Health website, or stay up to date via social media to hear about walk-in availabilities or other opportunities.

If you need assistance, you can call 855-722-7878. Parental or caregiver consent is required for vaccination of this age group, and consent can be given as part of the online registration process or at a clinic in person.

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