Southland health agencies and other providers will quickly begin vaccinating youth aged 12 to 15 against COVID-19, with federal authorities Wednesday giving final approval for use of the Pfizer vaccine on that age group.
Shortly after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s immunization advisory committee voted to approve the use of the vaccine, the city of Long Beach announced it would begin offering the Pfizer shot to those aged 12-15 starting Thursday.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said earlier it would begin offering the shots to the newly eligible age group as soon as the CDC gave it final approval.
“With vaccination eligibility set to expand later this week to include adolescents between 12-15 years of age, there will be more opportunities to get vaccine into more arms to save lives and to build the county’s protection against COVID-19,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday. “Getting vaccinated is the way we end this pandemic.”
Grocery chain Ralphs also announced that its pharmacies will begin offering shots to those 12-15 starting Thursday.
Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for youth aged 12-17. A full list of vaccination sites in Los Angeles offering the Pfizer vaccine is available at bit.ly/PfizerSites.
County officials noted that anyone aged 12-17 must be accompanied by an adult at a vaccination site.
Officials in Long Beach, which has its own health department separate from the county, said the Pfizer shots would be available to those 12 and older without an appointment at:
— the Long Beach Convention Center, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays;
— Cabrillo High School, 2001 Santa Fe Ave., from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays; and
— Tucker Middle School, 2221 Argonne Ave., from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays.
Long Beach also stressed that people aged 12-17 must have parental consent to be vaccinated. The city has a consent form available online at www.longbeach.gov/globalassets/health/media-library/documents/diseases-and-condition/information-on/novel-coronavirus/vaccines/vaccine-consent-minor-form.
“This is a huge milestone in our effort to fully vaccinate everyone against COVID-19,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said. “By getting vaccinated, these kids protect not only themselves but everyone around them.”
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis issued a statement Wednesday urging parents to get their teenagers vaccinated.
“Although children and teens have been at lower risk than adults to be hospitalized or have severe illness from COVID-19, they can still carry and pass on the virus to more vulnerable adults, and their lives have been upended as a result,” Solis said. “At the county, we are prepared to administer these vaccines at a variety of sites — from our larger sites, to parks administering the Pfizer vaccine, to those set up on school campuses directly. By doing so, we can give children and their families the peace of mind that they will soon be able to add another level of security to their protection from this virus and brings us closer to our new normal.”
Ferrer said Monday if the county can maintain its pace of administering about 400,000 doses per week, “herd immunity” could be achieved by mid to late July. Health officials are estimating that 80% of county residents will need to get vaccinated to reach that point.
County officials had earlier estimated that the bulk of county residents could be vaccinated by late June. But demand for the vaccine has tailed off — both in the county and statewide — in recent weeks.
Vaccines are now being offered without appointments at all county- and city-run vaccination sites, while authorities are emphasizing mobile clinics that reach into neighborhoods with low rates of inoculations.
According to figures provided Monday, only 38% of Black residents in the county have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 42% of Latinx residents. That compares to 60% of white residents and 68% of Asians.
When looking at the numbers by age, older residents — who have been eligible for shots much longer — have the best rates, with 86% of residents aged 65-79 receiving at least one shot, and 73% of those aged 80 and up.
But among the youngest eligible residents, those aged 16 and 17, the rate is just 34%, along with 45% of residents aged 18-29, 54% of those 30-49 and 65% of residents 50-64.
The county on Tuesday confirmed another 18 COVID-19 deaths, while Long Beach health officials reported one more, lifting the death toll from throughout the pandemic to 24,021.
Another 224 COVID infections were also confirmed by the county, while Long Beach reported 26 and Pasadena three, for a pandemic total of 1,235,999.
According to state figures, there were 375 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID as of Wednesday, down from 379 on Tuesday, with 84 people in intensive care.