KYUK AM

Alaskans Age 12 To 15 Could Get COVID-19 Vaccine As Early As May 12

May 11, 2021

Mt. Edgecumbe High School Senior Bradley Westlock receives his second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on February 19, 2021. Before Monday, only people age 16 and up were eligible for the vaccine.
Credit Katherine Rose / KCAW

Alaska children ages 12 to 15 may be able to get a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as soon as the afternoon of Wednesday, May 12, said state health officials.

The announcement follows the federal Food and Drug Administration’s decision on May 10 to authorize the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and up

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink described the FDA’s decision to expand vaccine eligibility to the group as a “big step to getting our communities healthy and well, and putting this pandemic behind us.”

“We’re so excited,” she said on a call with reporters on May 10. “This is a huge opportunity to be able to protect our kids from this virus. We do see kids get really sick.” 

FDA’s authorization is just step one, however.

Step two: The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet on May 12 to review the data and decide whether to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15.

And then, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will approve or reject that recommendation, said State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin. 

“It’s a checks and balances process,” he said. 

The state anticipates the CDC could give the approval as early as the afternoon of May 12. Then, Pfizer shots could begin immediately after that for Alaskans 12 to 15 at local clinics and doctors’ offices, said McLaughlin. 

The state estimates there’s roughly 40,000 children in the age group.

Zink said the state has been preparing for vaccine eligibility to expand to the younger teens, and has enough vaccine for them.

The Pfizer vaccine is a two-shot series, with 21 days between the doses.

Zink said you can start scheduling vaccine appointments for children 12 to 15 years old, but the appointment should be for Wednesday afternoon or later. As the mom of a 13 year old, Zink expected she’ll be booking her daughter an appointment right away.

“So if you’re a parent, and as excited as I am about scheduling your kid’s vaccine, look for late Wednesday afternoon and on for an appointment,” Zink said.

The state has no plans to require the COVID-19 vaccine for teens, she said.

“So vaccination is a choice,” she said. “But it is an incredibly safe and incredibly efficacious vaccine that helps us to really get on with the summer and not let COVID get in the way.”