Where to get 12-15 year old kids vaccinated in California
According to the California Department of Public Health, there are around 2.1 million children in the 12-15 age group in the state eligible for a covid vaccine.
Acting on advice from an advisory panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US regulators authorized the Pfizer vaccine for use in children as young as 12 last Wednesday, making it the first covid-19 vaccine to be approved in the United States for the 12 to 15 age group.
Now the race is on to fully vaccinate the school-age population of the US - around 17 million children fall into the 12-15 age range – to ensure a return to normalcy in US classrooms ahead of the next school year.
"Now that vaccine is authorized for ages 12 and up, and I encourage their parents to make sure they get the shot," Joe Biden said after the CDC announcement. "This is one more giant step on our fight against the pandemic."
Vaccinating younger ages is considered an important step for getting children back into schools safely and Biden has asked states to make the vaccine available to younger adolescents immediately.
However, experts have warned that a full-scale vaccination program for children faces several obstacles with schools unlikely to require shots for students anytime soon given public hesitation and political hurdles.
State governments for the most part can order a vaccine be required for a child to attend a K-12 public school, said Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a University of California-Hastings law professor who researches school mandates and the legal issues around vaccines.
In all but a handful of states, a measure must pass the full legislature to be added to the mandatory vaccine list, Reiss said. No state government has mandated covid-19 immunizations for schools, she added.
There is increased hesitancy over the shots because some of them rely on the newer mRNA technology and have been authorized on an emergency-use basis.
Both the Moderna and J&J vaccines are both currently undergoing clinical trials on the age group while Pfizer-BioNTech, which is one of the three vaccines in use in the US after all were granted emergency authorization by the FDA, had previously only been cleared for use on people aged 16 or over.
Reiss said it is highly unlikely state legislatures will push through mandatory covid-19 vaccinations for children this year.
"It takes political capital, and my bet is that legislators will not even try until they can do it for children aged 5 and up," she said. "They will not want to go through the process twice."
In a sweeping policy speech given on Thursday in Washington, Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union, said in-person learning, five days a week across the country must take place in the fall.
She said that ATF polling of parents shows that vaccines - along with social distancing, masking and testing – were mandatory to winning parents' confidence in sending kids back to school.
Recent polling by the ATF and the NAACP shows 94% of parents would be comfortable with their children attending school in-person with those safety measures in place.
California legislators are planning to lift a mandatory mask order in early June in line with CDC guidance for fully vaccinated individuals.
LA leading the way in school vaccine clinics
The Los Angeles Unified school district, the second-largest in the country with nearly 650,000 students, has been among the most proactive on vaccines for pupils. Fifteen vaccination clinics are located in LA schools.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner said during a Monday news conference that he wants a vaccine available to every middle and high school student as soon as possible.
According to the California Department of Public Health, there are around 2.1 million children in the 12-15 age group in the state.
"Protection from covid-19 is available for so many Californians already and now our 12- to 15-year-olds can join others in getting vaccinated," said Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. "Young people have shouldered a significant burden during this pandemic. We look forward to now providing protection for this group to return to activities, especially as we look forward to the state fully reopening on June 15."
Where to book an appointment for a covid jab in California
Appointments to have children vaccinated against covid-19 are available through California’s online booking portal, MyTurn.ca.gov or via the state’s covid-19 hotline: 1-833-422-4255.
General information and FAQs on the vaccination program for children aged 12 and over can be found at covid19.ca.gov.