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Bay Area looks forward to vaccinating 12-to-15-year-olds

On the heels of the Food and Drug Administration taking the first step Monday toward expanding emergency use of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds, Bay Area health officials are gearing up for another round of shots.

COVID case rates keep falling around the state, yet outbreaks are still occurring. In Sonoma County, younger people have been contracting the coronavirus, which have been traced back to social gatherings and sports events, according to Dr. Urmila Shende, who heads the county’s Vaccine Mission Program.

Shende is excited to start getting tweens and teens vaccinated, at school clinics, health centers and pharmacies. She says even though young people fare better after becoming infected, serious consequences can still result. They may infect other unvaccinated people in the community, for instance.

“And somebody within that group may end up having a very bad outcome,” Shende said. “This is the issue with COVID. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Dr. Ann Petru, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, says reaching herd immunity without vaccinating this younger group would be difficult.

“You know, a lot of them are out playing and hanging out. You see them wearing no mask and out skateboarding,” she said.

Petru says the data shows the Pfizer vaccine is safe and the side effects minimal.

State health officials say they are waiting to hear what the CDC’s safety review group says at a Wednesday meeting about expanding the vaccine for use in 12-to-15-year-olds. Then,  the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup,  created by California, Nevada, Washington and Oregon to review vaccine research, will assess the data and issue a recommendation. If the workgroup gives the go-ahead, several Bay Area counties say, they will start administering the vaccine.

—Polly Stryker and Jon Brooks

Copyright 2021 KQED