Just days before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is poised to authorize the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, Palm Beach County’s top health official says coronavirus cases among kids are “creeping up.”
Speaking to county commissioners on Tuesday, Dr. Alina Alonso said the five to 14-year-old age group accounted for 10% of new COVID-19 cases on May 2.
"We're very concerned about that," Alonso said. "This was not like that before."
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Federal officials said the FDA will grant an emergency use authorization by early next week to allow children ages 12 to 15 to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Currently, the vaccine is available for anyone 16 and older.
Pfizer said in March its vaccine was 100% effective in a clinical trial involving more than 2,200 12 to 15-year-olds.
"This will give that age group the ability to get vaccinated," Alonso said. "The timing is very good because we're seeing these numbers creep up in the five to 14-year-old."
The health director added that once the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for use in this younger population, children will be able to get it through the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, doctor's offices, and mobile vaccination units.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses given three weeks apart.
"I hope that by the end of this, we'll be able to vaccinate everybody in the community like we do with the regular flu vaccine," Alonso said.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, 33,003 people between the ages of 16 and 24 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Palm Beach County.
All told, 52% of the county's total population has received at least one dose, which is less than the 70% to 80% needed to achieve herd immunity to the virus.
"We're nowhere near any kind of herd immunity here, nor in the country," Alonso said. "It is not likely that we are going to reach herd immunity."
Alonso's comments came on the same day that Palm Beach County officials announced that the county's mask mandate, which had been in place for more than a year, is officially over.