Here’s what you need to know before your teen gets a COVID-19 vaccine

Anyone 16 and older eligible to get COVID-19 vaccine in Florida

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Parents of teenagers submitted questions to News 6 asking questions about the COVID-19 vaccine now that 16 and 17-year-olds are eligible for the Pfizer shots.

Their questions come were posted to the News 6 Facebook page after Gov. Ron DeSantis first announced state eligibility would expand to people 16 and older beginning in April.

Anyone over 18 years old can get the vaccine in Florida beginning April 5, however, 16 and 17-year-olds are currently only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.

[RELATED: Floridians 16 and older eligible for Pfizer vaccine in April, health officials say]

Seminole County Medical Director Dr. Todd Husty answered some questions from parents.

What is the point of giving the vaccine to teens when they are typically asymptomatic?

There are a number of reasons why kids should still be vaccinated, No. 1 some of them do have symptoms, some have severe symptoms, Central Florida even had a death in Seminole County of an 18-year-old, according to Husty.

Husty said there has been a spread of disease in school sports.

“This is a community problem it’s not an individual problem, ‘what are we looking for?’ We are looking for herd immunity, we are not looking for my child, your child, other people’s children,” Husty said.

Why haven’t the FDA approved the other vaccines yet for teens?

Husty said the vaccines don’t appear to have another change in their safety profile, just because they have not gone through all the testing on them.

According to the Florida Department of Health, Pfizer’s Vaccine is the exception because it’s the only vaccine currently authorized for people under the age of 18.

“The vaccine is probably much safer than getting COVID which is pretty safe, but not as safe as not getting COVID,” Husty said.

Will the other vaccines be approved for use in teens, children soon?

Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for ages 16 and older. But health officials say vaccinating children of all ages will be critical to stopping the pandemic — and helping schools, at least the upper grades, start to look a little more normal after months of disruption.

In the vaccine study of 2,260 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15, preliminary data showed there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared to 18 among those given dummy shots, Pfizer reported.

It’s a small study, that hasn’t yet been published, so another important piece of evidence is how well the shots revved up the kids’ immune systems. Researchers reported high levels of virus-fighting antibodies, somewhat higher than were seen in studies of young adults.

Kids had side effects similar to young adults, the company said. The main side effects are pain, fever, chills and fatigue, particularly after the second dose. The study will continue to track participants for two years for more information about long-term protection and safety.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech in the coming weeks plan to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European regulators to allow emergency use of the shots starting at age 12.

“We share the urgency to expand the use of our vaccine,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement at the end of March. He expressed “the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year” in the United States.

Pfizer isn’t the only company seeking to lower the age limit for its vaccine. Results also are expected by the middle of this year from a U.S. study of Moderna’s vaccine in 12- to 17-year-olds.

But in a sign that the findings were promising, the FDA already allowed both companies to begin U.S. studies in children 11 and younger, working their way to as young as 6-month-old.

“We are longing for a normal life. This is especially true for our children,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in a statement.

In February, AstraZeneca began a study of its vaccine among 6- to 17-year-olds in Britain. Johnson & Johnson is planning its own pediatric studies. And in China, Sinovac recently announced it has submitted preliminary data to Chinese regulators showing its vaccine is safe in children as young as 3.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


About the Authors:

Nicky Zizaza is an Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 6 nightside team in December 2018. She is originally from Rwanda and she started her journalism career in the nation's capital.