It takes five weeks to be fully vaccinated with Pfizer’s vaccine, the only one authorized for adolescents ages 12 to 17. That means, for example, Atlanta students need to get their first shot by July 1 to be fully immunized by the first day of school on August 5.
“Get them vaccinated. Vaccine provides, without a doubt, the best protection against Covid, and we want our schools to be safe and we want our children to go back to school,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a longtime vaccine adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We have two grandchildren in that age group, and they have been vaccinated, so do not only as I say, but do as my family has done.”
Parental worries about heart ailment
The seven-day average of first doses administered to this age group peaked at 220,401 on May 22, the day before the articles. That number dropped to a low of 62,424 on June 20, the most recent day for which data was available.
According to CDC data, out of more than 300 million doses administered, there have been 1,226 preliminary reports of myocarditis, with males ages 12 to 24 having unusually high rates.
That risk pales in comparison with the risks from Covid-19, the CDC says.
Among adolescent boys ages 12 to 17, CDC researchers estimate that for every 1 million second-dose vaccinations, 5,700 Covid-19 cases, 215 hospitalizations, 71 intensive care unit admissions and two deaths would be prevented. It’s estimated there might be 56 to 69 myocarditis cases.
Schaffner said he understood that the myocarditis risk might make parents nervous, but that the risk of Covid-19 should make them much more nervous.
“People think that doing nothing is not a decision. But not vaccinating your child is a decision, and it’s a decision that puts them at risk,” he said.
Getting the message out
Schaffner and others said they felt the US Department of Health and Human Services hasn’t done enough marketing to parents about the importance of Covid-19 vaccination.
“The messaging about Covid vaccination has not been optimal. The federal government moves very, very slowly,” said Schaffner, a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
“I’ve been talking with other moms, and there just hasn’t been much outreach,” added Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore health commissioner. “Every Lyft and Uber should have ads. I drive from Baltimore into [Washington] DC and I don’t see billboards about vaccination. Why aren’t they everywhere?”
The spokesperson added that CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy hosted a press call with “mommy bloggers” and outlets targeted at parents and women.
“Students from around the country are now reaching out peer to peer [to help] other adolescents and young adults understand the facts about the vaccine,” Murthy said.
Justin Lape, Keri Enriquez and John Bonifield contributed to this report.