State and local public health officials and educators have begun scheduling clinics to vaccinate teenagers and adolescents against COVID-19 in an effort that could alleviate fears about transmission in schools and summer camps.
A panel of independent advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Wednesday to recommend Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents age 12 to 15.
State officials estimate there are about 177,000 eligible teens in the state, and local public health officials and educators wasted no time setting up ways to help parents get children vaccinated.
Meriden’s Health and Human Services Department and the Meriden Public Schools have scheduled a clinic May 22 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Maloney High School. It is open to 12 or older, and will offer the Pfizer vaccine. Those under 18 must have a parent or guardian present. This is the department’s last scheduled first-dose clinic to allow for a pause to see if vaccine demand increases, said Health and Human Services Director Lea Crown. The second dose for this clinic is June 12.
“We recommend that parents and guardians consider vaccinating their child against COVID-19,” Crown said in an email. “Although COVID-19 in children is usually milder than in adults, some kids can get very sick and have complications or long-lasting symptoms that affect their health and well-being. The virus can cause death in children although this is rarer than for adults.”
As with adults, children can also transmit the coronavirus to others if they’re infected, even when no symptoms are present. The COVID-19 vaccine protects against this potential harm to the child and others, including family members and friends who may be susceptible, Crown said.
Protecting the broader community is another reason to consider vaccinating children, Crown said.
“Each child or adult infected with the coronavirus provides a chance for the virus to mutate and create a variant that might prove more dangerous or resistant to the available vaccines and therapies,” Crown said. “Fewer overall infections among the population means less chance of dangerous coronavirus variants.”
Wallingford’s Health Department is working with Hartford HealthCare to determine an appropriate way to vaccinate those 12 and up, said Health Director Stephen Civitelli.
Health officials said that once individuals are fully vaccinated in the various age groups the number of quarantines in the community, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, will be reduced. This could mean fewer interruptions in school, camp, and athletic attendance.Cheshire, Wolcott clinics
The Chesprocott Health District, which covers Cheshire, Wolcott, and Prospect, will host two clinics this weekend for individuals 12 and up. A Saturday clinic scheduled for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Cheshire High School has 600 people pre-enrolled, and few available spots. A Sunday clinic set for the same time at Wolcott High School has only 180 appointments scheduled, said Director Maura Esposito.
“I can’t absolutely guarantee why that is,” Esposito said. “But the numbers are lower than expected.”
Esposito isn’t surprised by the low turnout in Wolcott, as vaccination rates among the adult population in that town are also lower than Cheshire’s rate. The health district respects the parents’ right not to get their children vaccinated, but Esposito hopes they will appreciate the benefit and come around. Appointments can be made by calling the health department at 203-272-2761.
Vaccinating children will also help the country achieve herd immunity, experts said.
“Children and teenagers are highly mobile populations attending schools, sports, extracurricular activities and intersecting more often with various age groups including caretakers and older family members,” pediatric virologist Dr. Miguela Caniza, of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, said in a statement. “Because of the high percentage of children and teenagers being asymptomatic or with minimal symptoms, most likely they will be effectively spreading during a very contagious period, and even more so, if they don’t follow the standard precautions” of distancing, using masks and practicing hand hygiene.
Hartford HealthCare will also be vaccinating 12 and up at all its sites, including the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford, where walk-ins are accepted. People may also make an appointment at HHC’s medical building on Pomeroy Avenue in Meriden.
“Like other folks where we rolled this out, there will always be an initial group that has a great deal of interest and some pent-up demand to come through,” Dr. James Cardon of Hartford HealthCare told reporters Wednesday. “We’re hopeful it’s pretty robust.”
The Regional Health District covering the towns of Southington, Plainville and Middlefield is currently in discussion with Hartford HealthCare over vaccination clinics for those 12 and up. In the meantime, health officials are referring parents to HHC’s larger sites.
HHC partnered with the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to form the Pediatric Care Alliance — a collaboration to advance pediatric expertise, and assist in vaccinating children under age 18.
According to health officials with CCMC, routine childhood vaccines are down about 20 percent because of COVID-19 and pediatricians hope parents get their children caught up. Once the Pfizer vaccine is in pediatricians’ offices, it is safe to administer with other childhood shots, said Dr. Juan Salazar of CCMC.
Communty Health Centers Inc. is planning events for younger patients and has begun vaccinating ages 12 and up at its drive-thru clinics.
“They are being driven through by parents and receive the vaccine in the vehicle,” said CHC spokeswoman Leslie Gianelli. “If they are not comfortable in the vehicle, we have chairs at each vaccination station for the kids to receive their shot.”