Doctors emphasize the FDA's authorization is based on careful consideration of the data.By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Now that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has emergency use authorization from the FDA for children 12 to 15 years old, local health systems are gearing up to vaccinate this group.

“All of the UPMC sites that have the Pfizer vaccine, we will begin to include the 12-year-olds and above,” says Dr. Marian Michaels, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “I think this is really what we need for our children to be able to get out there for sports, for seeing their friends, for going to school safely. This is what we need.”

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“We’re going to allow kids to sign up in any of our existing clinics that we have going on,” said Allegheny Health Network’s Dr. Joe Aracri. “We’re also in the planning process of doing two major events to bring families in for vaccination. So not just the 12 and up, but we want to get their mothers and their fathers and any other caregiver that’s around them.”

But not quite yet. Parents will have to wait.

“As of today, the sign-up is closed until we get that final recommendation from the state,” said Dr. Aracri.

The CDC’s vaccine advisory committee meets on Wednesday to discuss how the rollout to adolescents should happen. So no vaccines for these younger teens until the CDC signs off.

“I do not anticipate there being controversy. I anticipate this being a unanimous move forward,” said Dr. Michaels.

When the time comes, parents will have to sign a consent form for their child. Proof of age is not likely to be required, but it doesn’t hurt.

“It’s always good to bring it if you have proof of age. But I don’t anticipate that that’s going to be necessary,” Dr. Michaels said.

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The doctors emphasize the FDA’s authorization is based on careful consideration of the data.

“There were over 1,000 children who had the vaccine, and not one, zero, ended up getting COVID as opposed to 16 children who received the placebo ended up getting infected,” said Dr. Michaels. “It mirrors what we were seeing in the older population, but maybe even a little bit better in the younger population.”

Side effects are mild and don’t last long.

“Many people are going to have a sore arm, maybe even have some fevers, feeling a little bit of achiness, for a day or two,” Dr. Michaels said. “The safety data is robust. There have been millions of doses given out.”

“Our teenagers seem to be more prone to getting a little woozy and faint after they get a vaccine, any vaccine,” Dr. Aracri said.

The actual illness, even in some kids, can be much worse.

“We have had over 200 children admitted because of COVID, over a quarter of them have actually had to go to the intensive care unit,” said Dr. Michaels.

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Announcements for mass vaccination clinics for kids 12 and up and their parents and caregivers could come as early as Wednesday.

Dr. Maria Simbra