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COVID-19 vaccine appointments for Californians ages 12-15 could begin Thursday

Jeymy Mendoza, 16, hugs her mother, Maria Jimenez, 34, at a mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Los Angeles.
Jeymy Mendoza, 16, hugs her mother, Maria Jimenez, as they wait to receive a COVID-19 vaccine last month in Los Angeles. Vaccine appointments for those ages 12 to 15 will be starting soon.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

COVID-19 vaccine appointments for Californians ages 12 to 15 could become available as soon as Thursday.

If everything goes to plan, California’s MyTurn site will begin making appointments available on Thursday morning, state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said. The timing for when other vaccine providers will begin to offer appointments will vary.

The availability is expected to come after an advisory committee on immunization practices for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meets Wednesday and issues recommendations. Later Wednesday night, a vaccine advisory group for California and other Western states will meet to issue its own recommendations.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 to 15.

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California health officials urged parents to bring their children to get immunized, saying increasing vaccinations will protect children against a rare but serious, painful and potentially deadly complication associated with COVID-19, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and also help keep children from becoming infected and infecting others.

The syndrome can cause different body parts of a child to become inflamed, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.

There have been 508 cases of MIS-C in California. Half of the children who have been sickened with the inflammatory condition were previously healthy with no underlying conditions. Across California, 21 children have died of the inflammatory syndrome; their median age was 15.

All 186 MIS-C cases in L.A. County needed hospitalization, with about 2 of every 5 of those children needing intensive care. Two children in L.A. County have died from the syndrome.

Coronavirus cases have been increasing among younger people, both in California and nationally.

“COVID remains an important threat to younger Californians,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary and a pediatrician. Although younger people are less likely to get severely ill from COVID-19, they can still suffer serious disease and die, he said.

Los Angeles County officials said they may want to continue using their four mass vaccination sites to inoculate youths 12 to 15 now that the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for that group.

Those under 18 will generally need the consent of a parent or guardian. A parent or guardian does not need to be present when the vaccine is administered as long as the parent or guardian has provided written consent. “There have been other creative things that providers have done, like via FaceTime, or other ways to consent remotely, so the parent doesn’t have to physically be there,” Pan said.

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Some adolescents have expressed excitement at the prospect of getting vaccinated.

“When it is my turn, I will be first in line,” Malyna Trujillo, 15, a student at Notre Dame High School in San Jose, said at a press conference this week held by Santa Clara County public health officials. “I want to get vaccinated to regain the year that we’ve lost.”

“I have a large family, one that I haven’t been able to see in over a year. I’ve missed out on being with my friends, spending time with family, going to school and so much more,” Trujillo said. “This vaccination isn’t just for me, it’s for my family — for my community.”

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There are about 2.1 million Californians ages 12 to 15 who will be newly eligible for the vaccine, which requires two doses, spaced three weeks apart. COVID-19 vaccines are free, and available to anyone regardless of insurance or immigration status.

Vaccination will enable these youngsters to more safely return to normal activities, including spending time with friends, and protect their families and communities from COVID-19, officials said.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for that group to experience that sense of normalcy that they have been missing,” Ghaly said.

Public health experts say that getting more adolescents vaccinated will be important to keeping coronavirus case counts low. A recent outbreak of COVID-19 among 32 high school students in Truckee near Lake Tahoe forced 166 students to be placed in isolation or quarantine; disease transmission was believed to be traced to off-campus activities.

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Vaccinating adolescents will also help protect children 11 and younger, including babies and toddlers, who are not likely to get access to the vaccine for months.

The FDA authorized the vaccine for adolescents following a study involving 2,260 participants ages 12 to 15; 1,131 who were given the vaccine and 1,129 who were given a saline placebo. The most common side effects among those who received the vaccine were generally mild and lasted one to three days — pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain. The side effects are similar to those for adults and older teenagers. Some people who got the shot did not receive any side effects.

Among a group of 1,005 vaccine recipients who did not have evidence of prior infection with the coronavirus, there were no cases of COVID-19 reported, meaning “the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19,” the FDA said in a statement.

California’s relative embrace of vaccines has had a major impact on reducing coronavirus case rates. According to The Times’ vaccine tracker, about 49% of Californians have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

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For weeks, California has had one of the lowest per capita daily coronavirus case rates in the nation, and hospitalizations are at their lowest levels since the first few weeks of the pandemic.

Over the past week, an average of about 55 California deaths daily from COVID-19 have been reported — a tiny fraction of the rate from the peak of the pandemic, when 562 deaths a day were reported over a seven-day period. The last time California’s average daily COVID-19 death numbers have been this low was in November.


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