Kids ages 12 to 15 can now receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Clark County after federal regulators this week authorized its use for this age group.
Here are five things to know:
Is the vaccine effective in this age group?
Clinical trials have shown the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be highly effective in preventing COVID-19 in adolescents. The shot elicited an even stronger immune system response in those 12 to 15 than it did in 16 to 25 year olds.
In a clinical trial of 2,260 adolescents 12 to 15, participants were given either two doses of the vaccine or a salt-water placebo. Eighteen participants developed symptomatic coronavirus infection in the group receiving the placebo. There were no cases in those who received the vaccine, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Is the vaccine safe? What are its side effects?
Public health authorities and federal regulators describe the vaccine as both safe and effective.
The potential side effects of the Pfizer vaccine in this age group are similar to those in other age groups.
The most commonly reported side effects in the adolescent clinical trial participants were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain, according to the FDA. These side effects typically last one to three days. Some people experience no side effects.
The vaccine should not be given to anyone with a known history of a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine. Rare serious side effects, including potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis, have been reported.
In authorizing the vaccine for emergency use in adolescents earlier this week, the federal agency said that “the known and potential benefits of this vaccine in individuals 12 years of age and older outweigh the known and potential risks.”
Why get a shot if most kids don’t get very sick from the virus?
Most children who catch the virus won’t get very sick from it. That doesn’t mean that some kids won’t become seriously ill.
In Clark County, children ages 5 to 17 represent about 10 percent of reported COVID-19 cases and 1 percent of hospitalizations. Four children have died, representing about 0.1 percent of the county’s deaths from the disease, according to data from the Southern Nevada Health District.
But kids can spread the virus to more vulnerable family members and to others.
“Younger people may not be as likely to get severely ill, but it is still a risk, and they can spread the virus to others who may be more at risk for complications from the illness,” said Dr. Fermin Leguen, district health officer.
Getting children vaccinated also moves a community closer to “herd immunity,” where enough people have immunity to a disease to keep it from spreading easily. As more people become vaccinated, the level of disease in a community drops.
Will Nevada schools require COVID-19 vaccination for K-12?
Clark County schools superintendent Jesus Jara said in a Facebook forum with parents this week that he doubted COVID-19 vaccination would be required for public school students, but that such a decision would be made at the state level.
A spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services said the agency will not require vaccination of K-12 students at this time.
“Required vaccination for students will be discussed further but at this time the state will not be requiring COVID-19 vaccination,” representative Shannon Litz said in an email.
A Southern Nevada Health District representative said it was unlikely at this point that vaccination would become mandatory for Clark County students. Authorized under emergency use, the Pfizer vaccine does not yet have the full approval of the FDA.
“This makes it very unlikely that the vaccine could be mandatory for Clark County students, since it does not have a full approval status from the FDA and such action may trigger legal challenges for school authorities,” representative Stephanie Bethel said.
Pfizer has requested full approval of its COVID-19 vaccine from the FDA, a review process that is likely to take months.
How can I get my child vaccinated?
Children who are newly eligible to get the vaccine will be able to do so at existing health district and partner sites in Clark County that administer the Pfizer vaccine. Those under the age of 18 must also have written consent from a parent or guardian at the time of services.
To register for appointments, visit www.snhd.info/covid-vaccine.
Area pharmacies and some doctor’s offices also will be offering the Pfizer vaccine to this age group.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.