Southland health agencies and other providers will begin vaccinating youth ages 12 to 15 against COVID-19 Thursday, with federal authorities 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 Wednesday, the city of Long Beach announced it will begin offering the Pfizer shot to those age 12 to 15 starting Thursday.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said earlier it would authorize the shots for the newly eligible age group as soon as the CDC gave it final approval, and it also quickly confirmed the inoculations will be available starting Thursday.
“We are grateful to the scientists, clinicians and the young people who participated in clinical trials that helped the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the CDC determine that these vaccines are safe and effective for this age group,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is the most powerful tool available to reduce transmission of COVID-19 and prevent hospitalizations and deaths from the virus. Increasing the number of people vaccinated speeds up our recovery journey and allows us to safely participate in the summer activities we all love and miss.”
Grocery chain Ralphs also announced that its pharmacies will begin offering shots to those 12 to 15 starting Thursday.
Thursday morning, Rite Aid also announced it will administer COVID-19 vaccines to anyone 12 or older at all locations offering the Pfizer vaccine. Guardians for individuals under 18 can now schedule appointments using the Rite Aid scheduling tool found at www.RiteAid.com/covid-19.
Rite Aid also said it is enabling schools and organizations in its footprint to inquire about vaccine clinics directly with the company by visiting www.riteaid.com/covid-19/community-clinics.
Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for youth age 12 to 17. A full list of vaccination sites in Los Angeles County offering the Pfizer vaccine is available at bit.ly/PfizerSites.
County officials noted that anyone age 12 to 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, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 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 age 12 to 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 that 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 age 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 Wednesday confirmed another 21 COVID-19 deaths, lifting the death toll from throughout the pandemic to 24,041.
Another 322 COVID infections were also confirmed by the county, while Long Beach added 12 and Pasadena one, for a pandemic total of 1,236,256.
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.