California will begin vaccinating young people between ages 12 and 15 against COVID-19 later this week, after the FDA and other public health officials gave their approval for the use of the Pfizer vaccine in that age group. That opens eligibility to roughly 2.1 million additional Californians – and California is “ready as a state” to vaccinate all of them, said Dr. Erica Pan, California State Epidemiologist, during Tuesday’s press conference.
“The statewide network has capacity to deliver 2.5 million doses per week,” she said, “and efforts are underway to enroll more clinics and providers.”
Opening vaccinations to this age group marks another major step toward achieving herd immunity in the state -- and in getting young people back to normal activities as the summer approaches.
“Young people have shouldered a significant burden during COVID,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Secretary of Health and Human Services. They have been unable to attend school in-person and are socially isolated from friends and family, sometimes resulting in anxiety and depression, he added.
“As both a pediatrician and a parent of a 13-year-old … this day couldn’t come soon enough, and we’re looking weeks and months ahead to when even younger Californians will be eligible,” Ghaly said.
How to find an appointment
Appointments for the 12-15 age group will be available through the state’s My Turn system beginning Thursday, either online at MyTurn.ca.gov, or by phone at 1-833-422-4255. In addition, parents and guardians looking to schedule vaccinations for 12- to 15 year olds can call their family doctor, or go to vaccinateall58.com for more information on making appointments.
Youths will be given the same dose of the Pfizer vaccine as adults, and on the same schedule of two doses, each given about three weeks apart. This is similar to other vaccines, including the annual flu shot, Ghaly said. To assist providers in managing the Pfizer vaccine, which has specific cold-storage requirements, the state is working to purchase freezers for those who might need them, Pan said.
State officials and healthcare providers emphasized the importance of parents and guardians making appointments as soon as possible.
“Like all other lifesaving immunizations, COVID vaccines are essential for protecting your child as well as family, friends, teachers, and others in your immediate and extended community,” said Kim Bower, M.D., a family physician and senior medical director at Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan. “While it’s normal to feel a little anxious, the science behind these vaccines shows that they are safe, effective, and essential protection against COVID-19.”
More than 61% of already eligible Californians have had at least one dose, including 30% of those over age 16 who became eligible only a month ago, Ghaly said. As more young people in the state are vaccinated, it also brings California closer to reaching herd immunity, where enough people have immunity to the virus that it keeps it from spreading widely.
“This pandemic is not over yet,” Pan said. “Every shot matters.”