Alaskans ages 12 to 15 could get COVID-19 vaccine as early as Wednesday

An Alaska native teen with a black mask getting vaccinated
Mt. Edgecumbe High School Senior Bradley Westlock receives his second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on February 19, 2021. Before Monday, only people age 16 and up were eligible for the vaccine. (Katherine Rose/KCAW)

Alaska children ages 12 to 15 may be able to get a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as soon as Wednesday afternoon, said state health officials.

The announcement follows the federal Food and Drug Administration’s decision on Monday to authorize the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and up

Families and public health officials had been anticipating the authorization, and on Monday Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink described it as a big step toward “putting this pandemic behind us.”

“We’re so excited,” she said. “This is a huge opportunity to be able to protect our kids from this virus. We do see kids get really sick.” 

FDA’s authorization is step one in the approval process.

RELATED: FDA OKs Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12-15 age group

Next, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet on Wednesday to review the data and decide whether to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15.

And step three: The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will approve or reject that recommendation, said State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin. 

“It’s a checks and balances process,” he said. 

The CDC could approve the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds as early as Wednesday afternoon. 

Then, Pfizer shots could begin immediately for that age group at local clinics and doctors’ offices, said McLaughlin. 

The state estimates there’s roughly 40,000 children in Alaska ages 12 to 15. Zink said the state has been preparing for vaccine eligibility to expand, and has enough vaccine for them.

The Pfizer vaccine is a two-shot series, with 21 days between the doses.

Zink said families can start scheduling vaccine appointments for children 12 to 15 years old now, but the appointment should be for Wednesday afternoon or later. As the mom of a 13 year old, Zink expected she’ll be booking her daughter an appointment right away.

“So if you’re a parent, and as excited as I am about scheduling your kid’s vaccine, look for late Wednesday afternoon and on for an appointment,” Zink said.

The state has no plans to require the COVID-19 vaccine for teens, she said.

“So vaccination is a choice,” she said. “But it is an incredibly safe and incredibly efficacious vaccine that helps us to really get on with the summer and not let COVID get in the way.”

Reach reporter Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8447.