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Vaccine providers prepare to accept adolescents for COVID-19 shots, following FDA emergency approval

On the same day the FDA announced its emergency use authorization of Pfizer for 12- to 15-year-olds, Charlotte clinics are preparing for the new age group.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-area vaccine providers are already preparing to open their doors for adolescents to get the COVID-19 shot.

It comes as the Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine for children 12 to 15 years of age, under emergency use. 

“The FDA’s expansion of the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to include adolescents 12 through 15 years of age is a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, the FDA's Acting Commissioner, said. “Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic."

StarMed Healthcare tweeted just hours after the FDA announced that all of its sites will start accepting that new age group on Wednesday. StarMed will allow people to walk in and get their shots.

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An independent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel is set to discuss the Pfizer data and vote on its recommended use on Wednesday. That meeting will start in the morning and last through the late afternoon.

Doctors call the EUA for younger people a crucial step to getting protection levels higher in the community, and they urge parents with questions or concerns about the vaccine to ask their child's pediatrician for more information.

"Whether we're parents or grandparents or physicians, we can clearly see the impact that this pandemic has had on kids. Anything we can do to reduce disease incidence and disease transmission in kids to get society back open to the way it was pre-pandemic I think is useful," Dr. Michael Smith with Duke Children's Health Center said.

He helped oversee some of the pediatric trials.

"Of the children in the trial who ultimately had a COVID infection, all of them were in the placebo group, none were in the vaccine group," Dr. Smith said. "So if you got the vaccine in this trial, you did not get COVID. That translates to a vaccine that has 100% efficacy."

Despite the data proving it is safe and effective, some parents are still hesitant.

"I probably would want to wait at least a year or two to see how the vaccine does on kids," Carrie Johnston of Cabarrus County said.

Vaccine providers are still working to overcome that hesitancy and hope to help families make an educated decision.

"It’s a decision that comes down to every family individually but we feel really confident that based on current knowledge, the vaccine is actually safer for children to experience than the potential risk of getting the infection," Dr. Lyn Nuse with Atrium Health said.

In the Charlotte area, providers are planning to start giving the shots on Thursday, as the CDC's advisory panel is expected to give the greenlight on Wednesday. 12 to 15 year olds will then be able to go to any of the permanent vaccine clinics.

There likely won't be mass clinics like there were for adults instead, there will be pediatric friendly, drive thru events.

Novant Health will start with vaccines in select pediatric offices but they won't be widespread in primary care offices across the area just yet.

In the meantime, they offer some factors to consider when it comes time to have a child vaccinated, noting that parents might want to plan for the possibility of their child feeling side effects from the vaccine.

"They might have a significant response in the 24 to 48 hours after the vaccine, which could include a fever. It could include having some body aches and feeling poorly," Dr. Ashley Perrott, a senior physician executive with Novant Health, said.

Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan. 

It's an important point to keep in mind if your child has school or other activities they want to attend, particularly if there are temperature screenings involved.

"Choosing to have the vaccine when there is no school the following day or avoiding the vaccine if there's a big event the following day would be good advice," Perrott said.

The good news, like with adults having to navigate the same dilemma, kids should only see short-lived impacts from the vaccine.

"Most people's side effects, if they have any, last for 24 hours or less," Dr. Brannon Traxler, South Carolina's Public Health Director, said.

Contact Vanessa Ruffes at vruffes@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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