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Wisconsin children 12 and older can begin getting vaccinated for COVID-19 starting Thursday, state health officials announced Wednesday evening.
The announcement followed the final stage of federal emergency approval for giving the Pfizer vaccine to children 12 to 15 years old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) completed the authorization process for youth vaccination Wednesday afternoon.
About 300,000 people in Wisconsin are in the newly approved age group, said Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary in the Department of Health Services (DHS), at an afternoon online briefing for reporters.
The Pfizer vaccine was the first COVID-19 vaccine to be put into use in the U.S., and is so far is the only one of the three vaccines approved for the 12-15 age group.
“Trials show that the Pfizer vaccine is 100% effective in preventing infection in children aged 12 to 15,” Van Dijk said Wednesday. “And that is very, very good news — especially since we have seen an increase in cases among children recently.”
Besides preventing the children themselves from getting infected by the coronavirus, vaccinating them will also help stop the spread of the illness among groups of children and the communities in which they live, Van Dijk said.
DHS is encouraging parents to consult with their family physicians to arrange vaccinations for their eligible children. In addition, local health departments— which are the primary organizers of vaccine programs around the state — have begun working with schools to arrange vaccination clinics in some areas.
A federally established vaccine locator website, Vaccines.gov, allows users to search for nearby COVID-19 vaccine availability. Users of the website are able to specify which variety of vaccine they are seeking, and Van Dijk said parents searching on behalf of a child should filter the search for just the Pfizer vaccine.
The announcement that children 12 and older are eligible for the Pfizer shot comes as the pace of vaccinations has been ebbing. More than 2.2 million Wisconsin residents are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to DHS. A total of 4.7 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the state as of Wednesday.
Although the vaccination rate has been tapering off, Van Dijk said the state has still set its goal of establishing that at least 80% of state residents have been vaccinated to ensure herd immunity.
That’s important, she said, because of the state’s still-high rate of coronavirus infections.
“This is a preventable disease,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the DHS Communicable Diseases Bureau. The current average rate of new cases, ranging around 500 to 600 per day, “is too high,” he added. “It means there’s enough virus circulating in the community that vulnerable people can become infected, and we can lose people who don’t need to die.”
For that reason, he said, health officials are still focusing on urging people to get tested for symptoms and to quarantine or isolate if exposed or infected. In addition, health departments are continuing to conduct contact tracing so as to isolate the spread of the virus and emphasizing the importance of vaccination.
Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.
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