GALVESTON

With the announcement that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine can be administered to people as young as 12, local providers say they’re ready to begin inoculations.

A panel at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday granted emergency authorization for the Pfizer COVID vaccine to be administered to people as young as 12.

The panel’s decision wasn’t a surprise. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the vaccine for younger people.

The University of Texas Medical Branch planned to begin vaccinating young people at its clinics as soon as the CDC granted permission, said Janak Patel, director of infection control and healthcare epidemiology.

“We are ready to go the same day,” Patel said before permission was granted.

The Galveston County Health District and the medical branch already had planned to hold vaccination events in the Texas City, Santa Fe and Dickinson school districts as soon as Thursday. Clear Creek Independent School District was partnering with Harris County Public Health to vaccinate students Thursday, a district spokeswoman said.

In some cases, the clinics originally were meant for people as young as 16. But with the new approval, Texas City officials said they would allow younger people to be vaccinated with signed parental consent.

In Galveston, the district’s Teen Health Center had requested Pfizer vaccines and would begin offering shots as soon as possible, said Angie Brown, the center’s director.

Once the vaccines are in hand, the school might go as far as pulling students out of class to get their vaccinations, Brown said. Only students whose parents have given permission and who have affirmed they themselves want to be vaccinated will be inoculated, Brown said.

There already had been much anticipation among parents and students about getting shots as soon as the FDA gave its approval on Monday, Brown said.

“The moment that it was announced it was expected to be approved, we started getting phone calls,” Brown said. “We’re preparing for a significant number of people wanting that.”

Even though young people have generally been less susceptible to serious illness if they’re infected with the virus, public health officials say getting vaccinated is a good idea. The chance of getting seriously ill isn’t zero, and young people can spread the virus to more susceptible people, Patel said.

“Children are getting infected,” Patel said. “Even if they’re getting infected at a slightly lower level than adults, they are still able to transmit infection to adults.

“About a quarter of our population is children under the age of 18. If you’re going to exclude them from vaccinations, obviously the infections are going to concentrate among young children and they’re going to be responsible for spread back to high-risk adults who haven’t been immunized.”

Studies have shown that with other types of virus, such as flu, vaccinating children helps protect older and more vulnerable groups from being infected, Patel said

Patel said he expected vaccines to reach individual pediatricians offices later in the year, as vaccine supplies continue to increase and as even younger age groups are approved to receive shots.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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