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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

FDA Expected To OK Pfizer Vaccine For Teens Within Week

 May 4, 2021 at 11:07 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Children ages 12 to 15 may soon be eligible for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA is expected to authorize this age group as soon as next week. Here's president Joe Biden a few minutes ago, Speaker 2: 00:13 But today I want American parents to know that if that announcement comes, we are ready to move immediately, immediately move to make about 20,000 pharmacy sites across the country. Ready to vaccinate those adolescents as soon as the FDA grants. It's okay. Speaker 1: 00:32 Joining me to talk about this development is Dr. Mark Sawyer and infectious disease specialist with Rady children's hospital and UC San Diego. Dr. Sawyer, welcome. Good to be with you. So remind us of the results Pfizer reported after completing its clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine and kids age 12 to 15. Speaker 3: 00:54 Well, the data that's been reported publicly looks very promising. It looks like the vaccines work at least as well in, in adolescents, as they do in, in younger adults. And the safety profile also looks similar. So I'm quite encouraged by what I've seen so far, that we can very soon be immunizing this age group. Speaker 1: 01:15 So what do you say to parents who are hesitant to vaccinate their children? Speaker 3: 01:21 Well, I guess, you know, I understand the hesitancy around COVID vaccines in general, uh, six months ago, but now around the world, we have immunized a billion people with these vaccines, and we're not seeing any concerning side effects except extremely rare things. So we know now with great assurance that these vaccines are safe. Again, the data we've seen so far on 12 to 16 year olds is that the Pfizer vaccine, it looks like it's going to be very effective and it's going to allow people to get back to normal, get back to school, get back to sports participation without as many, as many restrictions. Speaker 1: 02:05 And how significant though, do you think vaccine hesitancy will be among parents in getting their children vaccinated? Speaker 3: 02:13 Well, you know, there's always going to be a subset of the population. That's more conservative and wants to wait longer, but I think, uh, again, we're, we've got great experience with these vaccines and it's the best way to protect the health of your kids to get them back into, into the activities that they would like to get back into. So I think that'll motivate a lot of people to get immunized Speaker 1: 02:35 And Dr. Sawyer, what's the significance of vaccinating this population of people the 12 to 15 year olds in terms of reaching herd immunity? Speaker 3: 02:44 Well, I think the first way to think about that is just your own family's immunity. The best way to protect your family is to get as many people immunized as possible from a public health perspective. The bigger question of herd immunity is something that actually just week we've heard may not be easy to achieve because of the subset of the population. Who's still not choosing to get immunized, but on a small scale, in a school, in a household, in a community, you can achieve that by getting the most people immunized as possible. Speaker 1: 03:18 It may not be easy for some parents to take their children to get vaccinated. Are you aware of conversations happening here about vaccinating kids at school? I mean, and, and what logistically would have to happen to make that a reality? Speaker 3: 03:31 I haven't heard of any specific plans yet, but I do know that we've rolled out vaccine clinics quite broadly around the County, and now they're available for walk-in visits as opposed to needing to make an appointment. So I think even if we don't immunize in school, there is going to be a vaccine site near you where you can get vaccinated. Speaker 1: 03:54 And during the first wave of, of COVID-19, it was adults who were most likely to get infected with the virus, but now children represent 22% of new COVID 19 infections. What are the potential consequences of not getting the vaccine and then risking getting sick instead? Speaker 3: 04:13 Well, there's certainly the risk of getting sick personally, but there's also the risk of bringing the infection home to you, to your family. Uh, even, even vaccinated people, you know, rarely still get infected. The vaccine is not 100% effective and some people have a compromised immune system, so they don't respond as well. So the best way to protect your family is to get as many people in your family, immunized as possible. Speaker 1: 04:41 Some public health experts have said the us should not prioritize vaccinating younger children because they are at relatively low risk for complications from COVID-19. And we should instead continue to prioritize adults or share our doses with countries like India, which are really overwhelmed with cases right now. Well, what are your thoughts on that? Speaker 3: 05:01 Well, it is true that children are less severely affected, uh, from a health perspective, but I want to point out that over a hundred children have died in the United States out of COVID already. And so that's a level that I think is unacceptable. And I think we, as more vaccine becomes available, we need to make it available to everybody. Uh, you know, the world back scene supply is a separate question and it's an, a very important question. The vaccine companies are ramping up quickly to continue to expand their production. And I think very soon vaccine is going to be generally available worldwide. Hmm. Speaker 1: 05:41 We are starting to see a slow down in demand for vaccines across the County. What do you expect to see here when 12 to 15 year olds become eligible in terms of demand? Speaker 3: 05:53 Well, I think there will be a lot of interest in getting adolescents immunized for the reasons we've already discussed. So I, I think there'll be a surge of interest and, and, uh, lines probably at some of the clinics to get those vaccines in, but the capacity is now much better than it was four or five months ago when we started immunizing adults. So I think we're going to very quickly be able to meet the demand. Speaker 1: 06:18 I've been speaking with Dr. Mark Sawyer and infectious disease specialists with Rady children's hospital and UC San Diego. Dr. Sawyer. Thank you so much for joining us. Speaker 3: 06:28 Thank you.

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Children ages 12 to 15 may soon be eligible for Pfizer’s COVI-19 vaccine. The FDA is expected to authorize this age group as soon as next week.
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