RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia’s vaccine coordinator announced that the state will begin offering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to children between the ages of 12 and 15.
The announcement comes after the CDC and its advisory committee both approved expanding eligibility earlier today.
Dr. Romesh Wijesooriya, the Division Chair of General Pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, was "super excited" by the news.
"This is coming a little bit earlier than we were anticipating," Dr. Wijesooriya said.
The pediatrician said he has already started talking with families about the vaccine because it will not only help protect teens against the virus but the community as a whole.
"The more 12- to 15-year-olds we get vaccinated, the less COVID is going to be circulating in our community," Dr Wijesooriya said.
Teen: 'It's gonna really help everything get back to normal'
Thirteen-year-old Audrey Sisler, who said she had to take extra precautions during the pandemic because she has an autoimmune disorder and is considered high risk, is ready to get vaccinated.
"I am very excited for the vaccine," Audrey said. "I think it's gonna really help everything get back to normal, I think it's gonna help me and my family feel safer.
"Audrey also said that most of her friend group has said they plan to get the vaccine and looks forward to being fully vaccinated.
"I haven't seen some of my grandparents in a really long time," Audrey added. "My cousins and I haven't been inside with some of my friends."
Virginia orders extra Pfizer doses
In recent weeks, Virginia has seen a decline in vaccination rates, but with over 420,000 people in that 12-to-15 group, state officials ordered an additional 150,000 doses of Pfizer for the expected influx.
Teens will be able to get the vaccine at places like pharmacies or clinics. But officials have been working to approve more pediatricians and family practices to administer the shot. In fact, nearly 600 of those had received clearance to administer the shots as of Wednesday.
Officials have also been talking with school divisions about clinics at schools.
"The ideal scenario is that we are able to do school-based vaccinations with that three-week interval before kids actually go home for the summer," Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia's vaccine coordinator, said.
Dr. Avula met with superintendents about the clinics Tuesday. He stressed school clinics would help with convenience and equitable access to the vaccine since parents could sign a consent form and not have to be present for the shot unlike at other locations, according to a health department spokesperson.
Whatever the method, Wijesooriya said that he expects vaccination rates in teens to mirror those in adult populations, with the fall school semester as a motivating factor for many.
"My hope is that we can hit that 60-70% with these, with these adolescents, these sort of 12 to 18-year-olds, and the next couple of months before school starts," Wijesooriya said.
Dr. Avula and State Superintendent Dr. James Lane will hold a telebriefing Thursday morning about the possibility of vaccine clinics in schools.
Walgreens ready to vaccinate teens
Officials with retail pharmacy giant Walgreens said vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds could begin as soon as Thursday.
Company officials called the approval "another notable milestone that will help end the pandemic, and with the Pfizer vaccine available in the majority of Walgreens stores administering vaccinations and our extensive experience immunizing adolescents, we are ready to vaccinate this newly eligible population as safely, equitably and as quickly as possible."
Virginians age 16+ now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Register on the Vaccinate Virginia website or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343). You can search for specific vaccines as well as which are available near you via the Vaccine Finder website.
Have You Been Fully Vaccinated?
People are considered fully vaccinated:
- 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
- 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
How to Protect Yourself and Others When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated
COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.
We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.
These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.
Click here for more information from the Virginia Department of Health.