Schools could operate at high level of safety if FDA approves vaccine soon

Adolescents ages 12 to 15 could start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in a matter of days after the FDA gave Pfizer emergency use authorization for that age group.

But, there's one more step. An advisory committee meeting will be held Wednesday, and if all goes well, the FDA said children could get vaccinated later this week.

"That's a welcome development," said Dr. Peter Hotez with Baylor College of Medicine.

With the more contagious variant now the dominant strain in the U.S., Hotez said getting more people vaccinated is crucial.

"We are seeing a lot of young adults and adolescents get sick or with long-haul COVID, so I think getting that population protected is going to be really important," he said.

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Making the vaccine available to that age group can help the U.S. reach herd immunity.

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"If we have to hit 70-75% of the whole U.S. population, it pretty much means all the adults and adolescents need to be vaccinated. It's a very high bar," said Hotez.

As of Tuesday, the vaccine was not available for those 12 to 15 just yet.

"It's going to go through the APIC, the advisory committee on immunizations practices for the Centers of Disease Control, and assuming they sign off on it, then there will be an emergency use for kids ages 12 to 15," said Hotez.

Hotez also said there's a highly-detailed process that happens prior to emergency use from clinical trials to review committees.

"Between the FDA and the CDC we have the most active program of vaccine safety the world has ever seen, so parents should feel really good about that," said Hotez.

Pfizer announced in March that clinical trials show its vaccine was safe and 100% effective in the 12 to 15 age group.

Hotez said once 12- to 15-year-olds are vaccinated, it will have a big impact on school.

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"It's also going to be really important for schools in the fall if we could vaccinate all the adolescents by the fall. We'll have the kids vaccinated, the teachers, the staff, bus drivers. That means that middle schools and high schools can operate at a very high level of safety," said Hotez.

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