Last week, 136 youths between the ages of 12 and 17 were vaccinated in Chatham, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s May 10 emergency authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to …
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Last week, 136 youths between the ages of 12 and 17 were vaccinated in Chatham, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s May 10 emergency authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to include 12- to 15-year-olds.
According to the state’s vaccination dashboard, of those who’ve received one vaccine in Chatham, 12- to 17-year-olds made up 1.4%; 65-74 year olds make up the largest vaccinated age group, at 26.1%. In North Carolina, most adults 65 and older have been eligible to get vaccinated since December; 16- and 17-year-olds were eligible in N.C. April 7 and 12- to 15-year-olds on May 13, following the CDC’s recommendation.
“As a result of the FDA and CDC’s decision, all Chatham County residents ages 12 and older are now eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and have a variety of means to do so in Chatham County,” Chatham Public Health Dept. Communications Specialist Zachary Horner said in a May 13 statement.
The N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services expanded vaccine eligibility to North Carolinians 12 and older last Wednesday.
“Having a vaccine for our younger teens brings us that much closer to being able to end the pandemic,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen in a May 13 statement. “By getting more teens vaccinated they are protecting themselves from the impact of COVID, and they are protecting their families and their communities by stopping the spread of the virus.”
NCDHHS said in that statement that nearly 123,000 children up to age 17 have tested positive for COVID-19, with the percentage of cases for that age group increasing.
In the clinical trials with the 12- to 15-year-old age group, the most commonly reported symptoms among teens were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain, NCDHHS said. The reactions typically lasted between one and three days and were similar to symptoms reported in clinical trials of participants age 16 and older.
On Facebook, a few Chatham parents commented on a News + Record post regarding the vaccine expansion, noting their children received the first dose of Pfizer last week without complications. One parent said the process was “easy peasy;” another said her child had a little headache and slight fever that was gone 24 hours later.
Chatham resident Krista Westervelt called Pittsboro Pharmacy regarding her 13 year-old son, Kiernan Reed, after learning they were starting a wait list in preparation of the expanded eligibility. Westervelt is fully vaccinated, as is her 19-year-old daughter, a student at Appalachian State University.
“It was frustrating to feel like my youngest was still in limbo while we had the opportunity to get ours,” she said.
A few days after contacting Pittsboro Pharmacy, they reached out to her on Thursday asking if her son could come in later that day.
“...I jumped on it,” Westervelt said. “When we arrived at the pharmacy on Thursday, there were a handful of other moms and young people there to get their vaccines. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such excited parents.”
Westervelt lost a friend to COVID-19 last April, so mitigating the risk of the virus is especially personal and important to her. Her son getting vaccinated also means he can have more social interactions with friends — which as an extrovert, he’d been missing.
“No one’s excited to get shots. They’re shots. They hurt,” Reed said. “It’s another shot I am obligated to take. I will take the shot. Also, if it means I can see my friends more, I’m fine.”
“To be a functioning member of society,” he added, “I should do it.”
Though his arm felt “a little weird” for a few minutes after the vaccine, he said he didn’t experience any other symptoms. His arm is better now, he said.
Chatham parent Whitney Beers Schmidt made appointments for both of her children, Georgia Schmidt, 14, and Emma Schmidt, 12, at the Carrboro Walgreens after she saw Wednesday’s announcement.
“Covid was scary for us, and we have been tremendously careful over the past year,” she said. “Our kids have been likewise affected, and while they were 100% on board with the precautions, they are anxious to feel safer doing the things that they love.”
Schmidt, her husband and her kids all did a lot of research before getting vaccinated, ultimately deciding the benefits outweighed any potential risks. They’re excited to soon safely gather with grandparents, as well as with friends who’ve decided to not get vaccinated, or been advised not to.
“I think giving kids a vaccination that is pretty new to the public eye can be scary for parents — it was for us, I checked both kids frequently,” Schmidt said. “Except for some fatigue and sore arms, all has been well, and we are grateful for that.”
NCDHHS said it is working to connect vaccine partners with schools interested in hosting on-site and off-site vaccine events for students and their families. Chatham County Schools has not yet hosted a vaccination event, but the district has shared multiple posts regarding clinics offering vaccinations to young people on social media.
Moderna is also seeking to lower the approved age limit for its COVID-19 vaccine, as it’s currently approved for 12- to 17-year-olds. Both Pfizer and Moderna have started tests with younger age groups, from 6 months to 11 years. Vaccines for younger children are currently not expected to be approved until the fall.
With COVID-19 restrictions for fully vaccinated people lifted in North Carolina, the accessibility of vaccines to teens and young people is an important part of families and people who interact regularly with kids being able to return to pre-COVID-19 interactions. Since children under 12 are viewed as being unvaccinated, the CDC has recommended the continuation of wearing a mask. Public schools in the state still require universal mask-wearing indoors.
“Young North Carolinians will now have an extra layer of protection against this virus,” Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted May 13 regarding the FDA announcement. “This move forward will help us turn the corner on this pandemic and get back to the things we love.”
To find providers with the Pfizer vaccine, go to MySpot.nc.gov and filter for Pfizer.
Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.