Pa. Health Dept. warns that although Pfizer vaccine has FDA approval, 12 to 15-year-olds can’t get shots yet

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FILE PHOTO: Vials of Pfizer’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine are seen at a pop-up community vaccination center at the Gateway World Christian Center in Valley Stream, New York, U.S., February 23, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania Department of Health applauded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Tuesday on their announcement of authorizing the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to 12 to 15-year-olds, but noted that parents shouldn’t immediately go looking to book an appointment for their child just yet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) must review the data from the FDA before making an official recommendation to use the vaccine for those teenagers. ACIP is scheduled to discuss the recommendation on Wednesday, May 12.

“Once all of the approvals are in place Pennsylvania vaccine providers will be ready to begin vaccinating these young people to add them to the more than 5.7 million Pennsylvanians who have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine so far,” Acting Secretary Beam said.

According to the CDC as of Tuesday morning, 45.6 percent of Pennsylvania adults have been fully vaccinated. The Department of Health noted that although individuals younger than 16 may soon be able to receive a vaccine, it does not change their stance on seeking 70 percent of all Pennsylvanian’s age 18 and older to be fully vaccinated for the state’s mask mandate to be lifted.

Pennsylvania law currently states that parents can override consent for their children to receive or deny the vaccine. State Senator Amanda Cappelletti (D-Montgomery) is planning on introducing a bill to allow individuals age 14 or over to consent to CDC-recommended immunizations as long as the consent is knowing and voluntary. This would not allow parents or guardians to override a minor’s consent for a vaccine if the individual is age 14 or over.

Cappelletti used an example from the measles outbreak in 2018, where the United States saw the second-highest rate of cases since the disease was eliminated in 2000. Pennsylvania saw 12,500 students in school whose parents opted them out of the vaccine required by the Pa. Department of Health. She argues that there was no way to know if any of those students wanted the vaccine.

Pennsylvania law already allows minors age 14 and over to consent to inpatient mental health treatment, so she suggests this bill could mirror the mental health law that’s already in place. It is unknown if this bill would garner any bipartisan support from the Republican-controlled Senate.

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