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FDA approves Pfizer vaccine for adolescents, but Oregon will do additional review

OHSU pharmacist Emily Chheng draws a COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic at Portland International Airport, April 9, 2021.
OHSU pharmacist Emily Chheng draws a COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic at Portland International Airport, April 9, 2021.

The federal government just expanded the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children as young as 12.

However, adolescents in four Western states including Oregon will not receive vaccines until another level of review is completed.

Last year, public concern over the politicization of COVID-19, led to the creation of the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, a committee of researchers from Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada. Shimi Sharief with the Oregon Health Authority says the workgroup, in conjunction with OHA, will look at both the risks and benefits of the vaccine before recommending it for children ages 12 to 15 years old.

“If the Pfizer vaccine is demonstrated to be safe and effective and recommended in that age group, OHA will work with community and provider partners including the Oregon Department of Education to ensure that individuals of that age group can be vaccinated,” Sharief said.

Sharief says after the review, the vaccine rollout for adolescents will be straightforward as it uses the same framework set up to vaccinate people 16 and older.

“We would basically use the framework for vaccinating the 16 and older group but potentially adding other partnerships,” Sharief said.

According to the Associated Press, the federal vaccine advisory committee’s recommendations for using the two-dose vaccine in younger people are expected as early as Wednesday. After that, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup will make recommendations to state governments. As to when that age group could start getting vaccinated in Oregon, Sharief couldn’t give an exact answer, but says the reviews can happen fairly quickly.

“We anticipate the review committee to meet sometime next week,” she said.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have begun U.S. studies in children ages 6 months to 11 years. Those studies explore whether babies, preschoolers and elementary-age kids will need different doses than teens and adults. Pfizer has said that in September it will ask the FDA for permission to use the vaccine on kids between the ages of 2 and 11. Dr. Sharief says it’s far too early to determine if that would be approved in Oregon.

“It would be a really different set of review conditions for children 6 months to 2 years stage,” Sharief said. “It’s also going to be a different dose in that study.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says unvaccinated people, including children, should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people outside of their households.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Alex Hasenstab, Kristian Foden-Vencil