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FDA OKs Pfizer vaccine for 12 and up

Staff Writer | May 11, 2021 1:07 AM

Panhandle Health District officials say Monday’s decision by the Food and Drug Administration to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on children 12-and-older won’t be administered in North Idaho until state agencies sign off.

“We will wait to begin administering to those 12 to 15 years old until [Idaho’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices], the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and the governor have given their approval, as well,” said Katherine Hoyer, public information officer for Panhandle Health.

The Pfizer vaccine had previously been approved for children 16 and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for adults 18 and older. The FDA’s decision was announced Monday after the government agency reviewed Pfizer’s data.

“We recognize that the next critical step is having vaccines available for use throughout the pediatric population,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

Before any states can begin administering, the Centers for Disease Control and a national immunization practices board must also approve the new guidelines. The CDC is not scheduled to meet until Wednesday before deciding.

However, both the White House and Gov. Brad Little’s administration have been fighting for herd immunity since the vaccines first became available in December.

“Vaccines continue to be an important public health measure in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” Marks said. “To date, the FDA has authorized three COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use that have met our rigorous standards for quality, safety, and effectiveness.”

The FDA’s authorization might not be the last it issues to Pfizer. The drug giant is expected to ask the FDA for an emergency use authorization for children 2 years old and older this fall, possibly as early as September, according to Pfizer chairman Albert Bourla.


The authorization comes as the daily COVID-19 case count in North Idaho has trended the wrong direction. More than 500 new cases have been reported in Idaho’s five northernmost counties in the last two weeks.

While the April 26 high of 76 new cases is nowhere near the health district’s single-day record of 410 last Dec. 9, the district is concerned that the rise in daily case counts could be a harbinger of a potential backslide. Hoyer said the FDA’s decision Monday will help.

“We are seeing a gradual rise in cases, which is concerning,” Hoyer said. “Having approval to begin vaccinating those 12 and older will help.”

But that rise in positive tests doesn’t necessarily translate to a severity of cases, at least locally. Since April 26, local hospitalizations are trending down, falling from 33 occupied beds to 23. One person has died of COVID-19 in North Idaho in that same two-week stretch, as opposed to 25 during the first two weeks of December, the height of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 situation in other parts of the world are far more grim. Health officials worldwide are calling for India, the second-most densely-populated country in the world, to lock down its borders as its daily infection rate has crossed 300,000 and its daily death count has topped 3,700, according to the WHO.

Local officials hope the Pfizer authorization for the pediatric population will help in the race for herd immunity. A total of 65,677 in the five northernmost counties have been fully vaccinated, with an additional 9,929 waiting on their second dose.

To date, 38 percent of Panhandle Health District’s 16-plus population has been vaccinated.

Hoyer added that vaccination is but one tool in North Idaho’s toolbox to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We are all eager to get back to life as we knew it,” she said. “But the pandemic isn’t over. We can all help by continuing to take precautions like washing our hands, avoiding crowds, receiving the vaccine, staying home when we are sick and masking in public.”

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