PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island parents and guardians of children can start registering their children who are 12- to 15-years old for a Pfizer vaccine.
The news comes as the Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for adolescents age 12 to 15 on Monday, allowing millions more Americans to get the two-shot vaccine. Five months ago, the vaccine was approved for emergency use for people as young as 16 years old.
Joseph Wendelken, the spokesman for the state health department, told the Globe Monday night that there “has been general agreement on the Subcommittee about Rhode Island moving forward for 12- to 15-year-olds once there is federal authorization.”
Tricia Washburn, chief of immunization for the state health department, said Tuesday morning during the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee meeting that the state has already done most of the preparation work to allow parents to sign their children up through the state’s registration system.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also meet Tuesday to discuss the FDA’s authorization. Alysia Mihalakos, chief of the state’s Department of Health’s Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response and co-lead of the state’s COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Workgroup, said the state will update the vaccinateri.org website and registration process to include all Rhode Islanders over the age of 12 years old for the Pfizer vaccine.
However, Mihalakos said, there are some technical issues that will be worked through, which includes ensuring that parents with children between 12 and 15 years old are only signing up for the Pfizer vaccine. Mihalakos also said that retail pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, will likely update their websites by the end of the day Tuesday.
Some public health leaders in Rhode Island said the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for this younger age group is not unexpected, but is still momentous.
“It is true that kids and young adults are much less likely to die than older adults. But: the drop in death rates among younger ages (unvaccinated) has been SLOWER than the drop in death rate among older adults (who are, largely, vaccinated),” tweeted Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam Hospital.
It is true that kids and young adults are much less likely to die than older adults.— Megan Ranney MD MPH 🗽 (@meganranney) May 11, 2021
But: the drop in death rates among younger ages (unvaccinated) has been SLOWER than the drop in death rate among older adults (who are, largely, vaccinated). https://t.co/tkuSljIAkX pic.twitter.com/Cpd9px5Z36
“By vaccinating kids, we also protect the vulnerable in our society,” she added.
Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a leading expert on infectious diseases, said on Twitter that the Pfizer news was both “expected and terrific.”
“16 million more Americans (including two in my home) just became eligible to be vaccinated,” he wrote. “Vaccinating them will add a lot to population immunity. And more importantly— protect them.”