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Your child is 12-15 years old and now eligible for Pfizer’s COVID vaccine. Here’s what you need to know

Nurses Lauren Kehlenbach (left) and Brandon Bessette each drew up a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine inside Boston College's Conte Forum.
Nurses Lauren Kehlenbach (left) and Brandon Bessette each drew up a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine inside Boston College's Conte Forum.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File 2021

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years old, enabling millions more Americans to be immunized.

Here’s what Massachusetts parents who want their children to receive the two-dose vaccine should know.

1. Consent form: Anyone younger than 18 in Massachusetts must show written consent from a parent or guardian at a vaccination site. Residents can download the consent form in several languages from the state’s website.

“The parent or guardian does not need to go with the minor to their vaccination appointment to give consent,” the site reads.

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2. Side effects for the 12-15 group: Pfizer in late March released preliminary results from a study of 2,260 US volunteers ages 12 to 15. They had side effects similar to young adults, including pain, fever, chills, and fatigue, particularly after the second dose.

3. How to sign up: Adults can book appointments on the state’s Vaxfinder website. In addition, hundreds of pharmacies and the state’s mass vaccination sites are accepting walk-in appointments.

4. But there’s a caveat: On Tuesday, the state’s mass.gov site had no specific guidance on when parents can schedule appointments for 12-to-15-year-olds. The Baker administration is awaiting further guidance from the federal government, a spokesperson said.

“Individuals 12-15 can preregister now for vaccination by visiting mass.gov and receive an e-mail with booking instructions as soon as this expanded eligibility begins,” the spokesperson said.

CVS, which is among the companies offering walk-in vaccinations at its Massachusetts locations, is monitoring the news closely.

“We’re fully prepared to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to children ages 12–15 at thousands of CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide as soon as permitted,” said CVS spokesman Matt Blanchette via e-mail Tuesday.

In Rhode Island, Alysia Mihalakos, chief of the 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 its registration process to include all residents 12 and older for the Pfizer vaccine.

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Mihalakos said there are some technical issues to be addressed, such as ensuring that children ages 12 to 15 are only signing up for the Pfizer vaccine. Mihalakos said that retail pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, will likely update their websites at some point Tuesday.

Anyone younger than 16 in Rhode Island must show written consent from a parent or guardian at a vaccination site. A parent or guardian can give consent through vaccinateRI.org or at a site.

5. What’s next in D.C.: An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to meet Wednesday to recommend how the vaccine should be used in the 12-to-15-year-old age group, as the panel did after the vaccine was first cleared for use.

The stakes are high. From March 1, 2020, through April 30 of this year, about 1.5 million COVID-19 cases in people 11 to 17 years old were reported to the CDC. Young children and adolescents generally have milder cases compared with adults.

6. What some communities have planned: Needham Public Schools Superintendent Dan Gutekanst said Tuesday the town will hold two vaccine clinics for kids ages 12 and older on May 15 at Pollard Middle School and on May 22 at Needham High School.

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The initiative is a collaboration between town officials and Waltham-based pharmacy PelMeds, Gutekanst wrote in an e-mail to Needham families. The pharmacy has “availability for any Needham youth and Boston resident students participating in the Needham METCO Program,” he wrote.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.