S.C. health leaders encouraged by approaching approval of vaccines for adolescents

S.C. health leaders encouraged by approaching approval of vaccines for adolescents
The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only COVID vaccine that is authorized for those age 16 and older. The FDA may be close to authorizing that same vaccine for use in adolescents. (Source: Pexels)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - News that the FDA is expected to soon authorize a COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents has South Carolina health leaders excited for what’s to come.

“We’ve been anticipating this news for months and we are so excited to know that it is right around this corner,” said Dr. Allison Eckard, division chief for pediatric infectious diseases for MUSC. “This is really a game-changer for us in terms of getting younger children vaccinated and protecting them and their families and their classmates and really moving forward in this pandemic.”

Currently, only people 16 years of age and older are eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine. But per the expected federal authorization, it could be a matter of days before children ages 12 to 15 will be able to get their dose of the vaccine in the United States.

RELATED | FDA expected to OK Pfizer vaccine for teens within week

South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control said the agency had been preparing for this moment.

“(We) don’t anticipate any barriers or delays in our state’s providers being able to safely and quickly administer the Pfizer vaccine to young people 12 and older,” a spokesperson told WMBF.

The department said it is finalizing its messaging to help assist both medical professionals and school systems be ready to educate and vaccinate this younger population. DHEC is putting together a toolkit for the state’s Department of Education and Independent School Association to “assist with community vaccine provider coordination and vaccine event planning for eligible students through the end of the school year. “

DHEC said they’re also planning to work with the South Carolina Department of Education to actually host vaccine clinics at schools. To avoid interfering with school-day activities, the majority of these clinics wouldn’t start until summer vacation.

Vaccinations are not required - by the SCED nor DHEC. But they are encouraged. DHEC is hoping for a future of family vaccination events, where parents and students can get their shots together.

Eckard is a co-investigator for the Moderna trial that MUSC is taking part in for children 6 months to 11 years. They’re expecting to start enrolling children in this trial soon.

She said getting kids vaccinated will hopefully make the new school year look a lot different.

“It really is another way to get us back to normal, so that in the fall we can perhaps not have to wear masks, we can remove the plexiglass,” she said. “But it all is up to the individual family to get those children vaccinated, so we can get closer to that herd immunity.”

Eckard said South Carolina is seeing record numbers of MIS-C in children right now, a rare syndrome associated with the disease.

It’s another reason why she hopes parents will choose to vaccinate their children when it’s finally available to them.

“I would never recommend something to families or children that I didn’t feel 100% safe about and feel comfortable with. I have little children so they don’t quite fall into this age group, but if my children were older, I would have them vaccinated tomorrow,” she said.

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