Kids 12 and up could get a COVID vaccine soon. What that means in Tampa Bay.

Nicole Boyle cannot wait for the day when all her children can be vaccinated against the corona virus.

Tarpon Springs’ 43-year-old mother said her twin 12-year-old daughters and 7-year-old son could participate in group sports, dining in restaurants, gatherings with friends, and physical classes during the pandemic in an effort to limit their exposure to the virus.

Now, with at least one COVID-19 vaccine soon to be available for children as young as 12 years old, Boyle said her family is hopeful of a return to normalcy.

“It gives them freedom they haven’t had in a long time,” Boyle said.

Related: A Guide to Finding a Coronavirus Vaccine in Tampa Bay and Florida

With the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expected to give the green light for the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in children 12 and older on Wednesday, some families of teens and young teens say they feel some relief from the concerns about the pandemic.

If authorization goes as expected, 87 percent of Floridians will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, with about 970,000 children in the state newly eligible for doses.

Experts say getting all those children vaccinated will be challenging, in part because of the ongoing hesitation with vaccinations and logistical issues, such as how families can get in touch with the Pfizer injections.

About 30 percent of parents of children 12 to 15 years old say they plan to have their child vaccinated right away, while another 26 percent take the wait-and-see attitude, according to a study released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation . That study found that 18 percent of parents of children in that age group would only get their kids vaccinated if the school demanded it, and 23 percent said they wouldn’t let their child get a COVID-19 shot.

However, attitudes may change as children start getting vaccines, said Ashley Kirzinger, deputy director for public opinion and survey research for the foundation. She said she expects something similar to when vaccines were rolled out to adults, with a growing number of people saying they were willing to get the injections over time.

Although children are generally less affected by the coronavirus than adults – who often report mild symptoms when they develop the disease – it is still important to vaccinate this population to further reduce the spread of the virus so that children can return. to pre-pandemic activities. with less concern that they could help spread the virus to others, experts say.

And some children can develop serious illness, including long-term problems, from the coronavirus, doctors note. To date, Florida has seen nearly 200,000 cases of coronavirus in children from birth to age 14, and more than 1,200 of those children have been hospitalized.

Dr. Christina Canody [Courtesy of BayCare Health System]

About 15 percent of coronavirus cases in children 14 and younger have occurred in the past six weeks, said Dr. Christina Canody, medical director of BayCare’s pediatric service line. That’s a higher rate than for cases of all ages.

“That’s the story in the story. … We are really seeing outbreaks in the adolescent population, ”said Canody. She said the reason is a combination of more contagious strains of the virus and “adults who are more confident because of vaccination coverage” and people who move and go out more.

Now that many adults have chosen not to be vaccinated – making it more difficult to achieve herd immunity – the virus will likely continue “for a long time” circulating in communities, “said Dr. Allison Messina, head of the department. Infectious Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Allison Messina [Courtesy of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital]

“Often people forget that not getting the vaccine is also a risk,” Messina said. “If you don’t get the vaccine, you always run the risk of getting the actual disease.”

Experts say it may take a while to reach many of the children who are just now eligible, and say that counseling and education about the vaccines for both children and their parents is critical.

Dr. Toni Richards-Rowley said pediatric practices are often trusted places for parents to ask questions about the vaccines.

Many of the families who come to her doctor’s office in Lithia say they are excited about the prospect of being able to vaccinate their children, she said. For those concerned, Richards-Rowley said there is a common concern about how quickly the vaccines were made.

She tries to explain the process behind the development and testing of the vaccines and says she wouldn’t recommend anything she wouldn’t give herself or her children. (She has two adult children who have received the vaccine and two others who are not yet old enough.)

President Joe Biden said earlier this month that his administration was working with pediatricians to have vaccine doses shipped directly to them. But right now, most of them don’t have access to the Pfizer vaccine, said Richards-Rowley, the Florida division vice president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Challenges with large batch sizes and ultra-cold storage requirements make that difficult.

Biden’s administration has also said that thousands of pharmacy sites are willing to immediately offer Pfizer doses to younger adolescents.

For example, Walgreens said Tuesday that it offers Pfizer in more than 60 percent of its stores across the country and is willing to administer the vaccines to children 12 and older. A few other vaccine providers in the state have also said they are ready to start vaccinating eligible teens and tweens after federal approval.

USF Health said Tuesday it has already started vaccinating children as young as 12 years old, even before the CDC’s official recommendation.

But not every vaccine supplier offers Pfizer, making finding a Pfizer dose more difficult in some countries than others.

And the clock is ticking to get kids vaccinated before school starts again in the fall – and with a CDC recommendation that no other vaccines (such as the required tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, or Tdap, injection) take less than two weeks earlier can be given or after a vaccination with COVID-19 – experts say it is crucial to find the best ways to reach these younger residents.

Hillsborough County Public Schools, for example, said it is working with the county health department to plan summer vaccination clinics where parents can bring students to get the vaccine if they want their child to get it. As of Tuesday, school officials in Pinellas and Pasco counties had no intention of making similar efforts.

Florida requires parental consent to be present at the recordings.

Dr. Carina Rodriguez, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of South Florida, said it’s understandable that parents are extra concerned about the vaccines when it comes to their children. She said the data so far doesn’t show much of a difference in the side effects of vaccines for children compared to adults. She said her office had also spent months debunking false rumors and theories about the vaccines for concerned parents.

Rodriguez said it’s important for parents and children to talk to each other about the vaccines, especially since parental consent is required.

“I really hope that we will do this right and that we will be able to … get vaccines to everyone as soon as possible,” said Rodriguez.

Joy Howerton, 13, said she is excited to be a candidate for a coronavirus vaccine.

The St Petersburg teenager wants to be able to see her friends more often and go back to school in person and may not have to wear a mask during dance practice. You know, to get back to normal high school life.

Joy’s father is a cancer patient and is immunocompromised, said Joy’s mother, Joni James. That meant that Joy had to be confined “more than probably most kids this year,” said James.

James, who works for BayCare, said she has spoken to Joy’s pediatrician and feels comfortable having Joy getting vaccinated. She and her husband have already been vaccinated.

“The vaccine is a step forward,” said James.

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