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Published on May 13, 2021

Avera Is Now Scheduling COVID Vaccines for Ages 12 and Up

Avera is now scheduling COVID-19 vaccinations for the 12-15 age group. Anyone age 12 and older can get vaccinated.

The Pfizer vaccine has received emergency use authorization (EUA) for the 12-15 age group. The Pfizer vaccine was previously approved for ages 16 and older. The other vaccines available – Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – are approved for ages 18 and older.

“Avera is strongly encouraging everyone in eligible age groups to participate in vaccination by visiting and scheduling an appointment or attending a walk-in clinic in their area,” said David Basel, MD, Vice President for Avera Medical Group Quality and also a specialist in pediatrics and internal medicine.

Vaccination for this age group has proven to be safe and effective. “From a safety standpoint, this vaccine has been given to literally millions of people. It’s probably the most highly studied vaccine ever,” Basel said. “There’s also good study data in the 12 to 15 age group. The side effects are showing to be very similar to those in adults.”

Side effects are generally mild and include soreness at the injection site, achiness and possibly headache. “The vaccine stimulates the immune system and so symptoms are the signs that your immune system has been activated,” Basel said. Side effects typically disappear after about 12 hours and respond well to over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Basel said he often hears that vaccination is not necessary for younger people because they are at low risk, but there are several reasons why vaccination is important.

“It’s true that this age group is at low risk for hospitalization or death, but it has happened. The risk is not zero,” Basel said. Long-term COVID syndromes also have been reported among teens and adolescents. “These kids are not getting back to their peak athletic performance quickly. COVID takes so much out of them and they are tired all the time.”

Vaccination among young people is also important for the community as a whole. “There’s no doubt that higher rates of COVID infections are happening in the 15 to 25 age range. That’s where the virus is circulating right now. Until we can get teens and young adults vaccinated and get the virus out of circulation, we’ll never reach herd immunity where we can go back to a semblance of normalcy,” Basel said.

The Pfizer vaccine is a two-vaccine series, three weeks apart. It’s important to get both shots for full immunity for a longer period of time. “Especially with the variants we’re seeing, people need that higher level of protection,” Basel said.

For all ages, COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines can now be administered without regard to timing. People can get COVID and other vaccinations, including back-to-school immunizations, on the same day and don’t have to wait 14 days between vaccinations.

Fears that COVID vaccines can impact future fertility or have long-term effects on DNA are groundless, Basel said.

“This concern has been looked into a great deal. It’s just totally made up,” Basel said. There are no similarities between proteins in vaccines and placental proteins. Similarly, vaccines do not interact with DNA or change a person’s genomics.

“The vaccine breaks down in your body in a matter of minutes to hours and then it is gone. It doesn’t have the ability to have a long-term effect – other than COVID immunity. Plus, it’s impossible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine. It’s a safe vaccine – for adults and children,” Basel said.

If all goes well and as expected with current clinical trials, COVID vaccination could be available for children as young as age 2 by late summer or early fall.

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