Bay Area health departments and providers are gearing up to vaccinate 12- to 15-year-olds, who are poised to become eligible for the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine as soon as Thursday following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision this week to allow the vaccine to be used in adolescents.
Now that U.S. vaccine supply is plentiful, expanding the shots to adolescents will mostly mean tapping the existing vaccine infrastructure, with a few tweaks. Vaccine clinics for adults and older teens will expand to those as young as 12. Drive-through vaccination sites will add lanes for the younger age group. Some counties plan to bring shots to schools.
It is unclear exactly when shots will start going into the arms of adolescents, but it could happen Thursday, California health officials said. The state’s vaccine appointment scheduling system, MyTurn, will start allowing people to make appointments for 12- to 15-year-olds Thursday morning, said state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan.
Local providers are ready once two procedural steps happen — a recommendation by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow adolescents to be inoculated, expected Wednesday, followed by a ratifying decision by a Western states group that includes California.
“We’re prepared, as soon as we get the go-ahead, to start scheduling appointments and vaccinating 12-to 15-year-olds at our existing site,” said Dr. Ted Chaconas, chief medical officer for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland.
The Oakland campus runs a vaccine clinic for patients and community members ages 16 to 21, and will expand it to inoculate those as young as 12, Chaconas said. The hospital also is considering bringing vaccine to schools.
“Going to where kids are, as opposed to having them come to us, makes a lot of sense,” Chaconas said. “If we’re going to try to get to the level of immunity we hope to, we’re going to have to be very successful at vaccinating children.”
Chaconas said once there is more clarity on the start date, he will email pediatricians and community health clinics in the area to let them know that their patients ages 12 to 21 can get shots at the Children’s Hospital Oakland campus.
Once the vaccine is authorized for California’s 2.1 million 12- to 15-year-olds, anyone in that age group can go to any county-run vaccination clinics, with or without an appointment, said Will Harper, a spokesperson for Contra Costa County’s health department. Health officials are also planning vaccination events at schools for all eligible students 12 and older for later this month, he said.
A spokesperson for Kaiser said shots for children as young as 12 will be available by appointment at Kaiser vaccination clinics.
Stanford Health Care’s two drive-through vaccination sites — at the Cisco parking garage in San Jose and the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton — will add lanes for cars with 12- to 15-year-olds, said Kelly Frank, a spokesperson for Stanford Children’s Health. And Stanford will use its teen health van, which has been giving shots to people of all eligible ages at several Bay Area schools, to also vaccinate 12- to 15-year-olds.
Some individual pediatricians and family doctors could offer the shots eventually, but it will take time to work out the logistics because the Pfizer vaccine must be stored in ultra-cold freezers that many medical practices do not have. And each vial of Pfizer vaccine contains six doses, which presents a challenge for smaller practices that may need to vaccinate only one or two patients at a time.
Most minors in California need consent from a parent or guardian — a signed form, verbally over the phone or FaceTime, or in person — to get a COVID-19 vaccine, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary. He urged young Californians to be vaccinated.
Young people have shouldered much of the burden throughout the pandemic, missing important milestones and experiencing anxiety and depression, Ghaly said. Getting them vaccinated, he said, will allow them to resume seeing their friends and family again, “to experience that sense of normalcy that they have been missing.”
Catherine Ho is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @Cat_Ho