RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — On Monday, the nation made a step toward immunizing the younger population against COVID-19 as the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children and teens ages 12 to 15.
Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s vaccine coordinator, believes vaccinating children and teens will be key in reaching herd immunity.
“We will only move forward as a state if the CDC says ‘yes, we agree with the advisory committee and we’re going to move forward,'” said Avula. “The data looks really good at this point.”
Shots could begin as soon as Thursday, once the federal committee issues recommendations for using the two-dose vaccine in the younger age group. The announcement is expected Wednesday.
On Tuesday morning, Avula spoke to faith-based community leaders during a virtual “Get Out The Vaccine” Zoom call this morning, hosted by “Celebrate Healthcare.”
He expects the next steps to move quickly.
“The clinical trials for adolescents have shown 100% effectiveness of the vaccine in that 12 – 15 percent of the population,” said Avula. “So I don’t anticipate any reason why we wouldn’t see an approval and what that means, if all goes well, is probably by Thursday or Friday of this week, we will have an approved vaccine and teenagers can start getting vaccinated.”
He believes vaccinating children and teens is key to reaching herd immunity, which means at least 70 percent of the population is protected from the virus.
“We’ve got to continue to press on with the vaccination effort, we really have to protect, just make sure there’s not a chink in the armor, just make sure there’s not a way that a new variant can emerge in our community,” said Avula.
He says getting children and teens vaccinated isn’t just about protecting them, it’s about protecting the community since that age group is more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19.
“That’s why it’s much more important, more for community health than it is for individual health, that young people get vaccinated, because they often don’t know that they are carrying and it can potentially transmit it to other folks,” Avula said.
Avula says local health departments have already been working with school systems across the state to figure out the best way to schedule vaccine clinics and get doses into arms quickly.