The FDA on Monday authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for use among those aged 12 to 15. It is the first vaccine to be authorized for use among those under 16.
Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Wednesday said authorization for a vaccine in that age group would make a return to in-person learning when schools reopen next school year much easier.
Dr. Karen Landers, assistant state health officer with the Alabama Department of Public Health, told APR last week that while older Alabamians are getting vaccinated in larger percentages, few younger people have been vaccinated. Just 26 percent of Alabamians aged 16 to 54 have received at least one dose, while 68 percent of those aged 65 to 74 have, according to the department’s data.
There’s another hurdle before the vaccine can be administered to younger people, however. A CDC advisory panel is expected Wednesday to review the data and make recommendations for using the vaccine in that age group, according to The Washington Post.
Pfizer in March announced that clinical trials showed the company’s vaccine was safe and effective for those aged 12 to 15. Infectious disease experts say that while younger people generally, although not always, have better outcomes when infected with COVID-19, they can still transmit the disease to others as effectively as adults.
The expanded use of the Pfizer vaccine could boost Alabama’s vaccination numbers. The average daily number of doses administered over the week ending Friday had dropped 46 percent from two weeks before.
Harris said Wednesday that the drop, coupled with plentiful vaccines statewide, was a sign that those who wanted to get vaccinated early on have done so, and holdouts were hurting the state’s numbers.
Alabama and Mississippi have the worst COVID-19 vaccination rates of any states in the U.S., according to data collected by The New York Times.