COVID vaccine

The Pfizer Vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

All Louisiana residents ages 12 and up are now eligible to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, an announcement made hours after federal officials approved the vaccine being used for children.

The latest expansion was announced in a joint statement from Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Health, with officials expressing “the utmost confidence” in the vaccine’s “ rigorous safety and efficacy review.”

The announcement came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) late Wednesday formally recommended use of the Pfizer vaccine for ages 12-15. Prior to this announcement, the Pfizer vaccine was authorized for people 16 years and older.

With the expansion, an estimated 250,000 Louisianans ages 12-15 are now eligible for a vaccine, which could provide a boost to the state’s lagging vaccination rate.

Roughly 33.5 percent of the state has initiated a vaccination series, much lower than the national average of 46.4 percent, according to figures from the CDC. Just over 29.3 percent of the state is fully vaccinated, also lower than the national average of roughly 35.4 percent.

The state has administered nearly 2.8 million vaccine doses.

In a recent press conference, Dr. Joe Kanter, the state health officer, urged parents to begin meeting with their child’s pediatricians and get answers to any questions they may have regarding vaccinations. He also expressed confidence in the Pfzier vaccine, which was the first to be granted emergency authorization in December.

“We have the utmost confidence in the FDA and CDC’s rigorous safety and efficacy review and, after looking at the data ourselves, are excited to now expand eligibility for more young people in Louisiana,” Kanter said. “Today is a good day, and it means more families have the ability to protect their children and their families and enjoy summer with confidence.”

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for ages 12-15 earlier this week, declaring the vaccine “safe” and that it “offers strong protection for younger teens” based on testing of more than 2,000 U.S. volunteers, according to the Associated Press.

The study found no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared to 18 among kids given dummy shots. Researchers also found the kids developed higher levels of virus-fighting antibodies than earlier studies measured in young adults, the Associated Press reported.

On Wednesday, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices overwhelmingly recommended use of the Pfizer vaccine in children, and the CDC approved this use based on clinical trial data that found it “safe and effective.”

In clinical trials, officials said the Pfizer vaccine has demonstrated “100 percent effectiveness” in children as young as 12 years old with “minimal side effects.”

“The reviews by the FDA and the CDC concluded that people ages 12 and above will not have side effects that are different from people who have already been vaccinated,” the LDH statement read. “These side effects are mild and include moderate pain or swelling in the arm where the shot was given, fever, chills, tiredness and/or headaches. These are normal side effects that usually go away within a couple of days.”

Kanter said the vaccine has now passed the same safety benchmarks for this younger age group as it did for those ages 16 and older. The Louisiana Department of Health on Thursday morning alerted vaccine providers that they can begin administering the Pfizer vaccine to people ages 12 and up.

This updated guidance will go into effect “immediately,” Edwards and Kanter said in the statement.

Edwards has joined state and national health officials and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in urging young people, their parents, and all adults to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to them.

“As a parent, I know that decisions regarding the health of our children are among the most important ones we make,” Edwards said in a statement. “I hope all parents of adolescents will consider protecting their children with the COVID-19 vaccine and, if they have questions, that they ask their child’s pediatrician or another trusted medical professional.

“Today we enter a new phase in our fight to slow the spread of COVID-19, with the expansion of the Pfizer vaccine to 12-15-year-olds. This vaccine is proven to be safe and effective and already we’ve seen a major decrease in the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in older people who are fully vaccinated.”

There are currently about 1,500 locations in Louisiana that offer the COVID-19 vaccine. For a person younger than age 18, parental/caregiver consent is needed to get the shot. The Louisiana Department of Health has developed a consent form that can be found on its website at: covidvaccine.la.gov.

People needing assistance are encouraged to call the state’s newly-launched COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 1-855-453-0774. Hours of operation for the hotline are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

The hotline can help residents schedule vaccine appointments, find vaccine providers in their area and connect people with medical professionals who can answer vaccine-related questions.

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