Last week’s news that the CDC approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds is an important step toward a goal we all share: returning to full activities and “normal” as quickly and safely as possible for our entire community.
In Santa Cruz County, the Pediatric Health Workgroup — a local group of pediatricians, pediatric nurse practitioners, public health staff, and County Office of Education representatives — has been meeting weekly since late 2020 to share strategies on everything related to kids and COVID. We actively encourage getting as many people in our community vaccinated against COVID as possible, including kids from 12 to 18 years old.
We know that students, families and others have many questions about this vaccine and we want to assure community members that we believe the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe for adolescents 12 and older. In fact, those of us with children in this age group have had our own teens vaccinated already. The vaccine is extremely effective. The clinical trial of 2,200 adolescents who volunteered to participate documented 100% protection from COVID in the group that received the vaccine.
It’s true that younger patients with COVID don’t experience severe disease as often as adults, but for those who could end up very ill or with long-term health consequences due to COVID, we now have a safe way to prevent that from happening. We also want to prevent kids from transmitting COVID to anyone else— whether it’s a classmate or relative who could not safely receive the vaccine due to an underlying condition, or someone who is still susceptible for another reason.
Like the rest of us, most adolescents are very eager to live their lives — hanging out with their friends again, playing sports, returning to full in-person classes and social lives. The vaccine makes it possible for them to join events with other vaccinated teens safely and freely.
Teens who are vaccinated also will be able to avoid some of the disruptions and hassles of unvaccinated life, including long quarantines if they are exposed to someone with COVID, or frequent testing. In addition, if your child has fallen behind on routine immunizations, we urge you to contact their medical home to get caught up.
Making a local appointment to get vaccinated (or if you’d prefer, finding a walk-in clinic) is easy; visit santacruzhealth.org. If you have specific questions about the COVID vaccine in this age group, please reach out to your pediatric care team. We will always listen and are ready to work with you to keep your child, your family, and the community we share as safe and healthy as possible. Meanwhile, enjoy your summer in our wonderful Central Coast.
The Pediatric Health Workgroup includes participants from multiple local health care organizations, the County Office of Education, the County’s Health Services Agency and includes Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools Faris Sabbah. For information about the group, visit hipscc.org/pediatrichealthworkgroup.