COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Expanded to Children 12 and Older

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Shoshana Medved

Investigative Beat Reporter

With the Pfizer-BioNTech (Pfizer) vaccine now available to children between the ages of 12 and 15, the number of vaccinated residents in Santa Barbara County (SBC) is rising. Within the first 10 days of the rollout, about 25 percent of the age group have received their first dose.  

“The initial uptake has been excellent,” SBC Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg wrote to The Bottom Line. “We strongly recommend [getting] everyone 12 and older vaccinated.”  

On May 10, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and older with a press release stating that the vaccine’s benefits for this age group and beyond “outweigh the known and potential risks, supporting the vaccine’s use in this population.” This emergency use expanded upon the FDA’s issue last December, which granted individuals 16 and older access to the Pfizer vaccine. 

The Pfizer vaccine was 100 percent effective in a clinical trial of more than 2,200 children within the age group. Side effects were similar to those experienced by adults, including muscle pain, swelling of the arm, and headaches. Results for children under twelve are still being studied by the medical community.  

At the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital’s drive-up vaccine clinic, 5,432 doses have been administered to children between the of ages 12 and 15 according to Maria Zate, a public relations manager. They began to provide the Pfizer vaccination for children 12 and older on May 13 and saw almost 2,000 vaccinations within the first three days. Cottage Health partnered both with local school districts and the SBC Public Health Department to ensure a smooth process. 

“Families have responded extremely positively to their experience,” Zate wrote. “Many children and their parents were looking forward to the added layer of protection of vaccination. Not only are these adolescents themselves feeling safer and protected, but they are helping our whole community move forward.”

The Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital’s clinic will continue to offer vaccines to those ages twelve and up until July 29 with assistance promised to those who have only received a first dose by the deadline. 

As of June 28, 58.42 percent of all Santa Barbara County residents have received their first dose, while just over half are fully vaccinated. These statistics are similar to neighboring counties, with 52.69 percent fully vaccinated in Ventura County and 48.39 percent in San Luis Obispo. 

According to Ansorg, the SBC Public Health Department planned and assembled multiple mass vaccination sites throughout the county. Sites were arranged with the cooperation of local hospitals and clinic groups and were evenly distributed between the northern, middle, and southern parts of the county. 

“We see a difference in the acceptance of vaccinations with significantly more persons in the south county compared to mid and north county,” Ansorg wrote. “As part of the leadership team of the Public Health Department, we constantly strive to reduce inequities in vaccination percentages.”

Initially, doses were provided by the state government to the SBC Public Health Department, which distributed them equitably across the vaccination sites. According to Ansorg, the federal government gave vaccines to pharmacies independent of the department at the same time.  

“Later, [we] stood up outreach teams to go to churches, employers, markets, schools, homebound individuals to administer vaccines,” Ansorg wrote. 

Individuals can help the SBC Public Health Department by hosting vaccination events at their workplace, sports clubs, churches, or in other settings of their choice. 

“Please reach out [to us if you would like to host],” Ansorg wrote. “We would gladly schedule an outreach team to come to you for a vaccination event.”

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