The three major health-care providers in Forsyth County said Friday they are preparing their COVID-19 vaccination strategies for kids ages 12 to 15.
Next week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are expected to provide an emergency use authorization that will allow that age group to get the two-dose Pfizer vaccine.
The federal agencies already have approved the Pfizer vaccine for ages 16 and 17.
The Forsyth County Department of Public Health is working with Novant Health Inc., Wake Forest Baptist Health and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools on vaccination strategies.
The school system’s goal appears to be providing vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds before the 2021-22 school year begins.
“We are working with the school system to plan vaccine events at certain schools that will be determined next week,” county health director Joshua Swift said.
Swift said the department provides doses to 16- to 17-year-olds at its vaccination sites and at community events.
Novant said Friday that state law allows minors to consent to medical services that prevent or treat communicable diseases.
“As such, those who are 12- to 17-years-old will not need to have a parent or legal guardian schedule, accompany or give verbal or written consent for the vaccine,” Novant stated.
Novant said the main vaccinating option for ages 12 to 15 would be its Hanes Mall mass vaccination site.
However, it has started a pilot vaccination program with a select number of affiliated pediatric offices.
“The pilot will first include established patients with the goal to incrementally expand vaccine administration to additional pediatric clinics and community members,” Novant said.
You do not have to be a Novant patient to participate in a Novant vaccination clinic.
The Hanes Mall site is offering walk-in and appointment slots, as is the county health department at 799 Highland Ave.
“While walk-ins are accepted at all permanent vaccination sites, we continue to encourage everyone to schedule an appointment through MyChart, www.GetVaccinated.org or calling 855-648-2248,” Novant said.
Twelve- to 15-year-olds with a MyChart account can schedule an appointment, or a parent or guardian can do so on their behalf. Established Novant patients can call a pediatric clinic to schedule an appointment, if that clinic is offering the vaccine.
Wake Forest Baptist Health said Friday that it is prepared to begin providing the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds once it is authorized for use in this age group.
“Families in our community should stay tuned for information on upcoming events for those in this age group,” the health care system said.
The health care groups said they plan to base part of their strategy for vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds on the response to a survey conducted this week and released Friday by the county health department and WS/FCS.
The survey received 1,497 responses, although some of the respondents said they do not have children in the affected age range.
A majority of people who responded said they would favor their children getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Having vaccinations at school was the most popular of the options offered.
About 63.7%, or 954 respondents, answered yes when asked if they wanted their child to receive the vaccine.
About 21.9%, or 328, said no, while 135, or 9%, were undecided. About 80 respondents, or 5.3%, said their child already has been vaccinated.
The survey was listed on the school system’s website and promoted via media outlets, and email and phone messages to parents. It was designed as a quick way to gauge parental interest in the vaccination option.
The groups acknowledge the survey offers a small sample size and likely appealed to parents who already were considering vaccinating their child.
As expected, the largest number of participating parents were in the sixth (254), seventh (239), eighth (274) and ninth (238) grades, although there were parents with children as young as in kindergarten.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth schools said the district is considering a similar on-campus approach to vaccinating students ages 12 to 18 as it did for vaccinating teachers and other staff members earlier this year.
“We would happily allow the health department to utilize school space for vaccination clinics focused on that younger population,” said a statement from the district.
“We have been advocates of the vaccine and worked closely with the health department to help them reach, educate and ultimately vaccinate over 50% of our employees through their clinics alone.”
Multiple media reports say the FDA is considering providing vaccinations for children as young as 2, potentially as soon as September.
The Associated Press reported that, in late March, Pfizer released preliminary results from a vaccine study of 2,260 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15. The results showed there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents, compared with 18 among those given dummy shots.
Kids had side effects similar to young adults, the company said, consisting of pain, fever, chills and fatigue, particularly after the second dose.
The FDA has allowed Moderna and Pfizer to begin U.S. studies in children 11 and younger, working their way to as young as 6 months old.
Dr. Ashley Perrott, a Novant family physician, said Friday she projects the child vaccination pattern to follow that of adults — an initial sharp demand once the vaccine is available that gradually tapers off.
“I think we will see a lot of initial adapters,” Perrott said, counting two of her children in that group.
Perrott expects there will be some hesitancy or questions from parents and suggests they talk to their family physicians about the vaccine.