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WISCONSIN – State health officials say children ages 12- to 15-years-old may be rolling up their sleeves for a COVID-19 vaccine soon.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the drug for 12-15 year-olds on Monday. However, on Wednesday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that the shots be administered on an emergency use basis. According to a story by CNBC, state officials are waiting for CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky to make the final approval.

During a media briefing call on Wednesday afternoon, Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said the department was ready to move forward with getting the orders out once federal officials made the final approval.

“The most important information to share right now: trials show that the Pfizer vaccine is 100% effective in preventing infection in children aged 15. That is very, very good news, especially since we have seen an increase in cases among children recently. Vaccinated children in this age group will prevent (the spread among) individuals, and help stop the spread among our children, and in our communities,” she said.

SOURCE: Wisconsin Department of Health Services, as of May 12, 2021

Where to find a vaccination site in Racine County

Children’s COVID-19 vaccine trial 100% effective

Willems Van Dijk added that the expansion of the vaccination program represented “another step forward” because it protects a group of children who currently aren’t eligible to receive it.

“It’s a very effective vaccine,” she said. “In the clinical trial for this age group, nobody who received the vaccine was infected with COVID-19.”

The trial — conducted by Pfizer — included 2,260 teenagers ranging in age from 12- to 15-years-old from the United States.

The vaccine demonstrated “strong immunogenicity in a subset of adolescents one month after the second dose,” according to a press release by Pfizer.

How soon could parents in Racine County have their 12- to 15-year-olds vaccinated?

City and county officials say that once approved, parents of 12 to 15 year-olds can choose to take their children to get vaccinated at sites the offer the Pfizer vaccines.

“The FDA and CDC endorse the use for 12-15-year-old,” said Shannon Powell, communications director for the City of Racine. “Then the state’s DHS, which controls the vaccine distribution, has to come up with rules and guidelines for the locals. After that, the locals can distribute to that age group once the state DHS says ok here are the rules.”

Local health officials say that could happen next week.

Overall COVID vaccine tapering off and why that’s a problem

About 4.7 million doses of the vaccine have been given to 2.6 million people; this represents about 45 percent of Wisconsin residents. But interest is starting to taper off. That’s cause for concern because state officials have a goal of having 80 percent of the population vaccinated.

Racine County lags somewhat behind the state in the percentage of people vaccinated at 41 percent. The most considerable discrepancies are 16-17, 18 to 24, and 25 to 34-year-olds. State officials say most of the spread occurs within the younger age groups, specifically younger children, due to virus variants that mutated from the COVID-19 virus.

Comparing Wisconsin rates to Racine County vaccination rates

Slide the arrow symbols in the middle of the graphic to toggle betwee the two graphics to compare county and state vaccination rates.

Dr. Michael O. Frank, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said he’s not as worried about people who have been vaccinated becoming infected with the variants. Instead, it’s people who haven’t been vaccinated and children who can’t get the vaccine that he’s most concerned about.

“The problem is that none of the kids are vaccinated yet, except in the high schools where maybe you’d get some 16-year-olds and older are vaccinated,” he said. “It is not true that kids don’t get COVID; kids get COVID. There have been over 500 children die in the last year from COVID. So kids get it. They do get sick enough to end up in the hospital, and they do die.”

With more children infected, that has translated into more hospitalizations. But it’s not at the same level of hospitalizations Frank saw in November, he said.

But that’s not the only issue. Since more children are getting infected, they are also infecting more people who haven’t been vaccinated. But there’s a bright spot for Frank: Wisconsin ranks higher than most states in its vaccination rate, and that has reduced the number of new cases significantly.

“That’s good,” he said.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.