Doctors say FDA authorization of Pfizer vaccine for teens is a step in getting life back to normal

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in teens 12 to 15 years old Monday. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s immunization practices committee is set to meet Wednesday to decide whether the agency will recommend use in that age group.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services data show 20-percent of the state’s population is under the age of 16, doctors say this authorization by the FDA only gets us one step closer to getting life back to normal.

“We have seen a little bit of decrease in demand for vaccinations, so perfect time to now add another large segment of the population into the group that could get vaccinated,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer at UW Health.

Pfizer’s approved Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA for 12 to 15-year-old teens comes as Milwaukee County sees a decline in the seven-day average of first doses administered per day. According to the Milwaukee County COVID-19 Dashboard, by April 29, the seven-day average was 1,670 compared to 6,318 on March 25.

“If our kids can’t get vaccinated, they could be a group that this virus can continue to go back and forth and infect, so it really helps us in our strategy to get back to normal,” adds Dr. Pothof.

The CDC released a study Wednesday, May 5 predicting a sizeable decline in COVID-19 cases by July if robust vaccinations and public health measures continue. So far, 39-percent of Milwaukee County residents have received one dose.

On Monday, the World Health Organization said any decline is welcome, but continued vigilance is key.

“We have been here before,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. "Over the past year, many countries have experienced a declining trend in cases and deaths, have relaxed public health and social measures too quickly and individuals have let down their guard, only for those hard-won gains to be lost.”

“Make no mistake, if we just decide to go back to normal right now with variants out there that are more contagious, things might not look so great in July,” Dr. Pothof says.

While expanding authorization to young teens is a step in the right direction, doctors say expanding vaccine access around the world will also be crucial to ending the pandemic.

“To end this pandemic, the only choice we have is cooperation,” adds Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“If you’re only looking out for yourself, bad things can happen, and it’s the same thing with vaccinations,” Dr. Pothof said.

Dr. Pothof says he does not expect it to be hard for 12 to 15-year-old teens to find places to get a vaccine, and believes that age group will be able to get vaccinated relatively quickly.

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