Michigan doctors and public health officials are encouraging parents to protect their 12-15 year old children with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
The vaccine was authorized for emergency use in this age group earlier this week by the Food and Drug Administration, and it was endorsed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
"That's just under 500,000 additional people in Michigan, 500,000 kids age 12 to 15, who just became eligible for vaccination, and that gets us even closer to being able to end this pandemic," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, M.D., chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
"This means fewer kids who will need to quarantine, fewer kids who will need to regularly get tested," said Dr. Khaldun. "It will protect our kids, importantly, from getting ill and from passing it on to others."
Dr. Khaldun said the federal health authorities also recommended that the vaccine can be given at the same time or on the same day as other vaccines.
"We want our kids to not only get the COVID vaccine," said Dr. Khaldun. "But we have also seen our vaccination rates for other preventable diseases go down during the pandemic. So now parents can make a single appointment at their medical provider to get their child caught up on all their immunizations all at once."
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, pediatrician and director of the Michigan State University and Hurley Children's Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, said that while most children and teens with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or no symptoms, "the virus can be very severe for some, especially those with underlying conditions like asthma, obesity, and diabetes."
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, children between the ages of 10 to 19 make up 12.6% of COVID cases in Michigan since March 2020, with more than 102,000 cases statewide. More than 1,300 children under 18 in Michigan have been hospitalized for COVID-related conditions since August 2020.
"We can prevent all of this with the vaccine, and that's why I'm so excited about this as a pediatrician and also as a mom," said Dr. Hanna-Attisha who had her daughters, age 12 and 15, vaccinated today. "Our kids can go back to all those activities that are so critical for their normal health and development."
Dr. Hanna-Attisha said as a pediatrician she knows how important it is for parents to get the facts and to get their questions answered so they can make the best decisions for their family. She said she encourages them to talk to their pediatrician or health care provider about the Pfizer vaccine for their adolescents.
Dr. Hanna-Attisha said if parents were in her office, she would tell them "the COVID vaccine is safe. It is effective. It prevents disease, and it saves lives. It's the most important step to get back to normal."