BOONE — Blue Ridge Pediatrics and Boone Drug are teaming up to host Pfizer vaccination clinics in response to 12- to 15-year-olds now being able to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization on May 10 for the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine to include adolescents 12-15 years of age. The Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine currently authorized for use in those ages 12-17.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed suit two days later and also recommended the Pfizer vaccine be administered to 12-15 year olds.
Two clinics were scheduled for the Pfizer vaccine at Blue Ridge Pediatrics. One was on May 14 and the other is on May 19 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Those interested in the clinic can sign up at tinyurl.com/phckkm3k.
Dr. Scott St. Clair is a pediatrician at Blue Ridge Pediatrics. When the news that the Pfizer vaccine could be administered to 12- to 15-year-olds, St. Clair said he was excited and grateful his patients have the opportunity to keep themselves safe.
“I think it provides an opportunity for my patients to know they’re not going to have anything bad happen to them with COVID-19,” St. Clair said. “It provides a way for families to be more protected.”
St. Clair said his practice has been talking to those patients and their parents who are 16 and older for a while since Pfizer was previously authorized for use among those 16 and older. With the anticipation that it would be allowed for 12- to 15-year-olds, St. Clair said they have been answering questions as best they can to parents.
St. Clair understands why some people may be concerned in allowing their child to get the vaccine because it’s new.
“What I generally tell parents is that, although it is new, the technology behind the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines, the mRNA technology, has been been worked on for decades now,” St. Clair said. “It’s being used prominently in this but it’s been around for a very long time.”
According to the CDC, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for a person’s cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein,” which is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. Once mRNA are inside the immune cells, the cells then use them to make a protein piece.
After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them, according to the CDC. The immune system realizes the protein doesn’t belong there and starts to build an immune response and make antibodies, similar to what happens in a natural infection against COVID-19.
The next advice St. Clair gives to people about the vaccine is that all the FDA stages for approval have been completed.
“They went through the exact same approval process that everything always goes through so no, none of the steps were skipped, and then the FDA approved it, because they thought it was both effective and safe,” St. Clair said.
He also emphasizes that there’s a lot more uncertainty with catching COVID-19 and all the potential impacts — now and in the future.
The side effects for 12- to 15-year-olds are pretty similar to those who are older, St. Clair said.
“You’re going to have some arm soreness and you’re going to have a little bit of fatigue,” St. Clair said. “Some of the things that most people think of like fevers and chills and body aches do happen, but it happens a much smaller percentage of the time. Most of the time, 12 to 36 hours after getting the vaccine those things go away. This profile on side effects for kids is essentially the same as it is for adults.”
St. Clair said that his practice has seen “plenty” of children who have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those who have tested positive, St. Clair said most have done well.
“The important thing for people to realize is while kids, generally, have not had severe outcomes, there are a certain number of kids less than 18 who’ve died from COVID-19, and there’s a certain number of kids that have been hospitalized and a certain number of kids that have ended up having long COVID-19,” St. Clair said.
According to the CDC, “long COVID-19” is a range of symptoms that can last weeks or months after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 or can appear weeks after infection. It can happen to anyone who has had even a mild case of COVID-19 and symptoms include tiredness or fatigue, difficulty thinking or concentrating, headache, loss of smell or taste, and dizziness upon standing.
“While kids have been less susceptible to bad outcomes, it doesn’t mean there haven’t been any bad outcomes,” St. Clair said. “The vaccine is incredibly effective at preventing bad outcomes.”
St. Clair said his biggest message to parents is that getting the vaccine is not only going to protect the kids, but it’s also going to protect everybody around that kid like their family, people in their school and people in their church.
“It’s going to have a ripple effect for them to keep them safe,” St. Clair said.