Governor Charlie Baker said Wednesday that the state is working out plans to vaccinate 12- to 15-year-olds against the coronavirus, as CVS Health announced it was opening up appointments for the adolescents at more than 5,600 pharmacy locations nationwide.
The moves came as an advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted to recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children as young as 12, marking an important step in the fight against the pandemic.
Baker estimated there are 400,000 12- to 15-year-olds in Massachusetts.
“We’re working with our providers and our mass vaccination sites and others to put plans in place to vaccinate this group once we receive word of a final approval,” Baker said at a news briefing at the Norwood facility operated by Massachusetts-based vaccine maker Moderna.
He said the state Department of Public Health had also reached out to primary care and pediatric doctors “in order to discuss with them a process for ensuring that they’re part of administering the Pfizer vaccine throughout their practices.”
“If parents have questions about the vaccine for their kids, they should contact their primary care provider or their pediatrician for more information,” he said.
Baker said a “bunch” of people in the 12-15 age group had already preregistered on the state website to get the shots, but did not offer a specific number.
The process of administering the shots would be similar to the process for adults, he said. “For the most part, most of the network is going to be pretty similar and pretty consistent with what we’ve used so far,” he said.
“I do think you’ll see more participation from the primary care community and the pediatric community because in many cases they have very tight relationships with a lot of the kids we’re talking about,” he said.
He also said he expected that regional collaboratives — and probably schools — would get involved with administering the shots. But some parents, he noted, might just take their children back to the same place they got their shots.
Boston Children’s Hospital sent out an e-mail to the “Boston Children’s Family” on Tuesday, saying it was offering the vaccine for the new age group and that people could sign up for them.
Starting Thursday, 23 participating CVS retail pharmacy locations in Rhode Island and 154 in Massachusetts will begin administering the Pfizer vaccine to this newly eligible population. Parents or legal guardian consent is required and children must be accompanied by an adult.
Patients are encouraged to schedule an appointment online at CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app to ensure availability. However, walk-ins are also accepted if supply allows.
The scheduling portal will only display appointments at locations that have the Pfizer vaccine once the patient’s age is provided since Pfizer is the only FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine for this age group.
“Offering vaccinations to younger populations at thousands of locations across the country brings us one step closer to prevailing over the pandemic,” said Karen Lynch, chief executive of the Woonsocket, R.I.-based pharmacy giant.
CVS Health has administered more than 17 million COVID-19 vaccines in both long-term care and retail settings. It will be offering vaccinations at more than 9,600 retail stores across 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., as of May 16.
The CDC committee threw its support for the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds two days after the Food and Drug Administration endorsed it for emergency use in that age group. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky also signed off Wednesday.
“Getting adolescents vaccinated means their faster return to social activities and can provide parents and caregivers peace of mind knowing their family is protected,” Walensky said.
Vaccinating children is a key to boosting the level of immunity in the population, and reducing hospitalizations and deaths, experts say.
As more adults are vaccinated, adolescents 12 to 17 years old are making up a greater proportion of infections, accounting for 9 percent of cases reported in April, according to CDC data presented at the meeting. That’s even higher than cases among people 65 and older, now that many people in that age group are vaccinated.
Material from The Washington Post was included in this report.