Many large school systems, including Atlanta, Fort Myers, Florida, Flagstaff, Arizona, and all of Hawaii, begin school in the first two weeks of August.
It takes five weeks to be fully immunized with Pfizer’s vaccine, the only vaccine allowed for adolescents 12 to 17 years old. This means, for example, that students in Atlanta must get their first shot before July 1 to be fully immunized by the first day of school. August 5.
“Get them vaccinated. The vaccine offers, without a doubt, the best protection against Covid, and we want our schools to be safe and we want our children to go back to school, ”said Dr. William Schaffner, longtime vaccine advisor at the American Centers disease control and prevention. “We have two grandchildren in this age group, and they’ve been vaccinated, so don’t just do what I’m saying, but do like my family did. ”
Pfizer’s vaccine is given in two doses three weeks apart. After the second dose, it takes two weeks until a person is considered fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Parents Worried About Heart Disease
Vaccination for 12 to 15 year olds began shortly after May 10, when the FDA cleared Pfizer’s vaccine for this age group. In less than a week, 600,000 children in this group were vaccinated, according to the CDC.
But the numbers nosedived on May 23, the day after articles appeared in the media about a possible link with the vaccine and myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, in young people.
The seven-day average of the first doses given to this age group peaked at 220,401 on May 22, the day before the articles. That number fell to a low of 62,424 on June 20, the most recent day for which data was available.
The connection to myocarditis turned out to be real, but most cases were mild and usually resolved quickly.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration added a warning about the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis, inflammation of the tissues surrounding the heart, to the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccine fact sheets on Friday.
According to CDC data, out of more than 300 million doses administered, there have been 1,226 preliminary reports of myocarditis, with men aged 12 to 24 having unusually high rates.
This risk is derisory compared to the risks of Covid-19, according to the CDC.
Among adolescents aged 12 to 17, CDC researchers estimate that for every million second-dose vaccinations, 5,700 Covid-19 cases, 215 hospitalizations, 71 intensive care unit admissions and two deaths would be avoided. It is estimated that there could be 56 to 69 cases of myocarditis.
Schaffner said he understands the risk of myocarditis can make parents nervous, but the risk of Covid-19 should make them much more nervous.
“People think that doing nothing is not a decision. But not vaccinating your child is a decision, and it’s a decision that puts them at risk, ”he said.
Transmit the message
As of June 24, nearly one in five children aged 12 to 15 was fully immunized and nearly one in three adolescents aged 16 and 17 were fully immunized, according to CDC data.
Schaffner and others have said they believe the US Department of Health and Human Services has not done enough marketing to parents about the importance of the Covid-19 vaccination.
“The message on the vaccination against Covid has not been optimal. The federal government is moving very, very slowly, ”said Schaffner, a member of the CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices.
“I’ve spoken with other moms, and there just hasn’t been a lot of awareness,” added Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore health commissioner. “Every Lyft and Uber should have ads. I drive from Baltimore to [Washington] DC and I don’t see vaccination billboards. Why aren’t they everywhere? ”
On its website, HHS mentions paid TV ads – like this one and this one – targeting parents and teens.
An HHS spokesperson also reported on a town hall on Facebook on May 26 on Families and Immunization and a toolkit for parents of teenagers to get information on Covid-19 vaccination and help find a site for vaccination.
The spokesperson added that CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky and US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy held a press conference with “mom bloggers” and media targeted at parents and women.
Murthy told CNN that on June 16, the government launched a student chapter of the COVID-19 Community Corps.
“Students across the country are now turning to peers [to help] other teens and young adults understand the facts about the vaccine, ”Murthy said.
Justin Lape, Keri Enriquez and John Bonifield contributed to this report.