US CDC Urges Teens Get Vaccinated

On Friday, PM Scott Morrison announced a four-phase plan in which coronavirus entering the country would be accepted once most Australian adults are vaccinated. In one respect, though, the move is out of step with other developed countries, which are pushing to vaccinate children and adolescents.

The Director of the US Center for Disease Control, Dr Rochelle Walensky, issued a recommendation last month urging parents to ensure their teenage children get vaccinated. “I am deeply concerned by the numbers of hospitalized adolescents and saddened to see the numbers of adolescents who required treatment in intensive care units or mechanical ventilation,” Walensky said in a statement.

While the median age for coronavirus deaths is 86 years, severe illness and hospitalization can occur amongst people of all ages. The CDC statement was released alongside a study that found that a third of teenagers hospitalised with COVID in early 2021 required intensive care. Mechanical ventilation was required for one in 20 (all of whom survived). 

At the end of March, Pfizer released clinical trial data showing its vaccine is safe and “100% effective” in adolescents aged 12 to 15. The study enrolled 1,130 participants in the United States to be vaccinated and another 1,130 in a placebo group. The first group recorded no infections subsequently, while the second group recorded 18. 

“Across the globe, we are longing for a normal life. This is especially true for our children. The initial results we have seen in the adolescent studies suggest that children are particularly well protected by vaccination […]. It is very important to enable them to get back to everyday school life and to meet friends and family while protecting them and their loved ones,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech, which developed the vaccine commercialised by Pfizer.

Pfizer Vaccine Approved For Persons 12 Years and Up

Following these results, on 10 May the US Food & Drug Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in adolescents as young as 12. But the Biden administration had already begun liaising with GPs and paediatricians to commence the roll-out after the Pfizer announcement.

“We’re ready,” Biden said on 12 May. “This new population is going to find the vaccine roll-out fast and efficient. As of tomorrow, more than 15,000 pharmacies across this country will be ready to vaccinate this age group.” 

Unfortunately, it will be a long time before Australia gets around to vaccinating its young people. The country currently sits in 76th place in terms of vaccine doses per 100 people, issuing 50% less vaccinations than the global average thus far.

COVID-19 Vaccine Doses per 100 people, via NY Times vaccination tracker.

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