Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Health encouraged all COVID-19 vaccine providers to start vaccinating anyone age 12 and over with the Pfizer vaccine as recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices held a meeting to review the data and make an official recommendation to use the vaccine for this age group. The CDC also said that the Pfizer vaccine could be co-administered with other routine vaccinations.
“Hundreds of vaccine providers in Pennsylvania already have Pfizer vaccine on hand and are ready to safely and efficiently vaccinate people in this age group,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said, noting that the state’s vaccine provider network is expanding each week.
People can find Pfizer vaccination locations near them using Vaccines.gov, also known as Vaccine Finder. Individuals also can text their zip code to GETVAX (438829) for English, or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish and receive three possible vaccination sites in their area, then choose locations based on availability of the Pfizer vaccine.
In Pennsylvania, immunizations, like other general medical services, require consent. The Department of Health recommends that vaccine providers follow their current policy for vaccinations of minors.
“Once all of the approvals are in place, Pennsylvania vaccine providers will be ready to begin vaccinating these young people to add them to the more than 5.7 million Pennsylvanians who have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine so far,” Acting Secretary Beam said.
The eligibility of 12- to 15-year-olds does not change the Department of Health’s criteria for at least 70 percent of Pennsylvania adults to get fully vaccinated for the state’s mask mandate to be lifted. According to the CDC, as of this morning, 46.2 percent of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated.
Learn more at the CDC’s “COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens” page.
Harrisburg, PA – First Lady Frances Wolf, alongside Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson, led a discussion about the COVID-19 vaccine and its effect on children during a Facebook Live event hosted by the Pennsylvania Commission for Women. The event, entitled Vax Facts for Parents and Guardians, is the first in a series aimed at providing Pennsylvania communities with relevant and accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines and addressing the questions of concerned citizens.
The full event is available at www.facebook.com/PACommissionforWomen.
“COVID-19 continues to affect us all, including our children, and if we truly want to see the other side of this pandemic, we have to keep making strides in vaccinating Pennsylvanians” said First Lady Wolf. “A key piece to this, we know, is ensuring people have access to the best and most reliable information. That’s why this conversation is so important. We want parents to be informed, so that they can make the best decision for themselves, their families, and their communities.”
The conversation comes on the heels of the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement on Monday, May 10, that the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination meets its standards for 12- to 15-year-old children. A study of 2,260 adolescents found that the vaccine was 100 percent effective in protecting against symptomatic disease and did not present any major safety concerns.
On Wednesday, May 12, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted 14-0 (one member abstaining) to recommend the use of the vaccine for this age range. The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, adopted the recommendation Wednesday evening.
A panel of Pennsylvania medical professionals joined Mrs. Wolf and Dr. Johnson to address various questions from citizens across the state. The panel included:
- The Philadelphia-based Twin Sister Docs, Dr. Delana Wardlaw, a Family Medicine Physician with Temple University Physicians, and Dr. Elana McDonald, a board-certified Pediatrician, and Chief Medical Officer and owner of three Philadelphia based outpatient practices;
- Dr. Nick Mulhearn, a pediatrician with Meadville Pediatrics; and
- Dr. Sylvia Owusu-Ansah, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine and Associate Vice Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Dr. Johnson opened the discussion by explaining why it is important that children get vaccinated. She solidified her position by sharing why she got the COVID-19 vaccine and recommends it for adults and children.
“I got the COVID-19 vaccine, because it protects me, my family and friends, and everyone around me,” said Dr. Johnson. “Please strongly consider getting vaccinated if you have not already done so. If you have been vaccinated, encourage your loved ones to also take this step to protect themselves from COVID-19. Together, we are making tremendous progress in combating the virus.”
Dr. Owusu-Ansah, who wrote about immunizing children for the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2016, pointed out that parents’ concerns then are the same concerns now. She reiterated the usefulness of vaccines by expressing that, “Immunizations only work if people get them. A pin-prick moment of discomfort, eased by a reassuring hug, can lead to a lifetime of well-being.”
The conversation recognized vaccine hesitancy among parents who might not feel comfortable vaccinating their children, while also reassuring them of the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations. The panelists broke down the approval process, explaining what Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is and how it applied to the COVID-19 vaccine. Furthermore, the panel pointed to reliable sources of information and reiterated the importance of seeking guidance from credible medical professionals.
“When looking at vaccine hesitancy, it is important to view how others interpret a situation and not try to cast judgement, but instead work towards a common understanding,” said Dr. Mulhearn. “So much of the COVID vaccine has been politicized, and the facts regarding the safety of the vaccine and the intent of the vaccine often get overlooked.”
The Twin Sister Docs voiced their commitment to eradicating the COVID-19 pandemic, touting vaccinations as a key piece to the effort.
“In 2020, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States,” said Dr. Wardlaw. “With continued vaccination efforts, our goal is to eliminate COVID-19 from the list.”
“Coronavirus continues to show us how deadly it can be,” said Dr. McDonald. “If we all get vaccinated, we can stop this disease.”
Vax Facts panel discussions will continue to dive into topics around the COVID-19 vaccine, specifically highlighting vaccine hesitancy and the communities that it effects most. The next conversation will be held on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 12 PM and will focus on vaccine safety related to fertility, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.