Rhode Island expects to start offering Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine to children ages 12 to 15 later this week now that the Food and Drug Administration has authorized its use for that age group, state officials said Tuesday.
The announcement came during a news conference at Rhode Island Hospital to celebrate the fact that more than 1 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the state.
The state's first coronavirus vaccine was given at the hospital on Dec. 14.
“I don’t think anyone would have ever thought on December 14 that we would have one million shots in the arms on May 11,” Gov. Daniel McKee said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory panel will meet Wednesday to review data and determine whether the vaccine is safe for the 12 to 15 age group.
However, eligible children, with parental consent, starting Tuesday could sign up for a shot at the state's current vaccination sites, and there are also plans to bring vaccination clinics to schools, officials said.
“We are so excited that we can expand to this younger age," said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the state Department of Health.
“Because children could not get vaccinated, and because we are seeing these more contagious variants of COVID-19, we have seen an increase in our proportion of cases in children," she said. “So the timing right now is perfect.”
Dr. Sabina Holland, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, has seen firsthand how the coronavirus has affected both the physical and mental health of children and urged parents to get their eligible children vaccinated.
"Thankfully, we have a COVID-19 vaccine that has been rigorously studied in a clinical trial and has been found to be extremely safe for children 12 to 15," she said.
She cautioned that children may experience post-vaccination fever, muscle pain, and fatigue.
“These are normal,” she said.
Just because the state has administered 1 million vaccines, that is not a reason to let up, McKee said.
With 68% of the state's eligible population having received at least one dose, Rhode Island is within reach of President Joe Biden’s goal of getting 70% of the nation's population at least partially vaccinated by July 4, the Democratic governor said.
“Mr. President, we have accepted your challenge and I hope we have made you proud here in the Ocean State,” McKee said. “We’re going to achieve 70% in just a few days and that’s a sign of really good things to come.”
People who have not been vaccinated should not rely on herd immunity to protect them, Alexander-Scott said.
“The reality is that over the last year COVID-19 has changed, it has evolved, the original virus has been replaced with newer versions that we are referring to as variants," she said. “If you get COVID-19 right now there are chances that you may have a more serious disease than you would have earlier in the pandemic."
HEALTH DEPARTMENT DATA
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Rhode Island has surpassed 150,000, according to state Department of Health data released Tuesday.
The state reported about 150 new confirmed cases of the disease, for a total of nearly 151,000 known cases since the start of the pandemic.
Of the new cases, 134 were people who tested positive for the first time on Monday and 15 were people who tested positive for the first time on previous days.
The state also reported four new virus-related deaths for a total of 2,694 fatalities.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has now fallen over the past two weeks, from about 285 on April 25 to about 183 on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins.