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Younger teenagers will start getting COVID-19 vaccine Thursday in L.A. County

A boy flexes as a nurse stands next to him in a white medical tent
Kevin Crook, 9, flexes after Curative nurse Jiamin Lin tells him to “show his muscle” as he gets ready for a mock vaccination in April in Redondo Beach, part of an effort to help prepare vulnerable people for the vaccine.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County will begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations to the youngest teenagers and 12-year-olds starting Thursday.

Vaccine sites run by L.A. County will begin offering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a two-shot regimen. Anyone younger than 18 should be accompanied by a parent, guardian or responsible adult, and present photo identification and verification of age, county officials said.

Vaccination appointments can be made starting Wednesday evening at VaccinateLACounty.com; the Spanish-language website is VacunateLosAngeles.com. People without internet access can call (833) 540-0473. County-run sites will also vaccinate people without an appointment.

County-run sites that are offering the Pfizer vaccine include Balboa Sports Complex in Encino, the Fairplex in Pomona, the Forum in Inglewood, Cal State Northridge, the L.A. County Office of Education in Downey, and Eugene A. Obregon Park in East L.A. The county has also published a list of vaccine clinics around the county offering the Pfizer vaccine at bit.ly/PfizerSites.

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CVS on Wednesday began accepting vaccination appointments for people 12 and older. The pharmacy chain said it will officially begin its rollout to the group Thursday at 5,600 locations nationwide, including 565 in California. “Offering vaccinations to younger populations at thousands of locations across the country brings us one step closer to prevailing over the pandemic,” said CVS Health Chief Executive Karen Lynch.

California’s My Turn vaccine scheduling website said families can begin scheduling appointments for 12- to 15-year-olds starting Thursday.

Only the Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for teens and adolescents ages 12 to 17.

The announcement came after an advisory panel to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended children as young as 12 be able to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to protect them from COVID-19 and help end the pandemic.

The recommendation means many middle schoolers and virtually all high school students have the chance to be vaccinated before the next school year.

California health officials urged parents to bring their children to get immunized, saying increasing vaccinations will help prevent children from becoming carriers of the coronavirus and protect them against multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, a rare but serious, painful and potentially deadly complication associated with COVID-19.

The syndrome can cause inflammation of a child’s body parts, 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.

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All 186 MIS-C cases in L.A. County needed hospitalization, with about 40% of those children needing intensive care. Two children in L.A. County have died of 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.

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

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“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 news conference held by Santa Clara County public health officials this week. “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,” Malyna said. “This vaccination isn’t just for me, it’s for my family — for my community.”

About 2.1 million Californians ages 12 to 15 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.

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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 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.

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.

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The Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccine for adolescents after a study involving 2,260 participants ages 12 to 15; 1,131 were given the vaccine and 1,129 were given a saltwater 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 effect on reducing coronavirus case rates. According to The Times’ vaccine tracker, about 49.7% 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 last week, an average of about 50 COVID-19 deaths a day have been reported in California — a 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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