Wade Vandervort

Theresa Nolan, Executive Director of Clinical Operations for UNLV Medicine, fills syringes with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at UNLV, Monday, April 5, 2021.

More young Nevadans are expected to be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as early as Thursday now that the federal government has given another OK to expand shot eligibility down to age 12.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the Pfizer-made vaccine today for children ages 12-15, two days after the Food and Drug Administration authorized it for emergency use in that age group.

“It will be available as soon as… those final recommendations are made tonight, so I believe as soon as tomorrow Nevada’s teens will be able to access the vaccine at pharmacies, at their doctors’ offices, at the mass vaccination sites that are currently running,” said Karissa Loper, chief of Nevada’s Bureau of Child, Family, and Community Wellness within the state Health Department.

“We are working with all partners to get more locations and working with schools to see about using school locations as vaccine clinic sites as well,” she said.

Loper said the state has enough doses on hand to accommodate the expanded eligibility. But it was not clear when the shots would be available to children in the Las Vegas area.

Children may typically have less severe cases of COVID-19 but are still susceptible to hospitalization and death from the coronavirus, Loper said. Getting children vaccinated protects them, and the greater community, she said.

“The purpose of vaccinations are to help populations protect themselves and decrease the number of vectors available for the virus to spread within,” Loper said.

As of Tuesday, 28,875 Clark County children age 17 and younger have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic last year. That’s about 12% of all cases, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.

Of those children, 287 have been hospitalized and four have died. Additionally, 64 local children have fallen ill with MIS-C, a rare but potentially serious complication that leads to multi-system organ inflammation.

“They can get sick as well,” said Dr. David Di John, a pediatrics professor at UNLV’s medical school and a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases.

Although none of his young COVID patients have died, he said, many have been ill enough to require hospitalization and ventilators. He has also treated children with MIS-C, a complication that can follow even asymptomatic COVID-19.

Di John plans to get doses of the vaccine at the UNLV Medicine Pediatric Clinic, and he said he wishes his daughter, 11, was old enough for a shot.

Di John said there are decades-established systems in place for safely and effectively inoculating children, and though there are risks to vaccines, there are also risks to disease.

“You have to ask yourself, which risk would you rather take,” he said.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said “for vaccination to do its job, we must do our critical part.”

“That means vaccinating as many people as possible who are eligible,” Walensky said in a statement. “This official CDC action opens vaccination to approximately 17 million adolescents in the United States and strengthens our nation’s efforts to protect even more people from the effects of COVID-19. Getting adolescents vaccinated means their faster return to social activities and can provide parents and caregivers peace of mind knowing their family is protected.”

The Pfizer shot was already available to 16- and 17-year-olds and is the only brand available to minors.

Moderna has said studies show its vaccine is safe and effective in patients ages 12-17, but the FDA will need to scrutinize the data.

Children need parental consent to be vaccinated and must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, the Health District says. To make an appointment, click here.


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