West Virginia Preparing To Move Immediately on FDA Approval to Vaccinate Younger Residents
CHARLESTON — As West Virginia struggles to get teenagers and young adults vaccinated for COVID-19, the state is preparing for the likely approval of middle schoolers for vaccinations.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve next week a request from Pfizer/BioNTech to allow for use of their two-dose vaccine for children between the ages of 12 and 15. The request would require the FDA amending Pfizer’s previous emergency authorization.
The move is part of a three-phase program introduced by President Joe Biden on Tuesday to get 70% of all U.S. adults partially vaccinated and 160 million eligible Americans fully vaccinated by July 1, requiring more than 100 million shots over the next 60 days.
Speaking Wednesday during his COVID-19 briefing at the State Capitol, Gov. Jim Justice said the state stands ready to make vaccines available for the 12-15 age range as soon as approval is granted. Justice wants to use the opportunity to hold vaccinations in schools for anyone who needs a vaccine.
“We are ready when this approval takes place to hold clinics in schools in all 55 counties to vaccinate those who are 12 to 15,” Justice said. “I’m sure they’ll have to have permission of their guardians. At these clinics, we will offer vaccines to all eligible West Virginians, including students, parents, and educators.”
According to the Department of Education, more than 78,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15 in the state’s public school system would be eligible for the vaccine.
State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch said he has been working already with high schools to encourage students age 16 and older to get vaccinated.
“Some of them are going off to college next year, some of them want to get back to some normalcy for next year. It all came back to vaccinations,” Burch said. “Each one of these students talked about the role vaccinations will play in the future of school.”
Burch said the department has worked on informational videos to encourage students and parents and explain how safe the vaccines are. Justice said the Department of Health and Human Resources used the Everbridge system to send notification to all West Virginians who pre-registered in the state vaccination system to encourage them to get vaccinated. The state is also working with the West Virginia Broadcasters Association on ads targeting teenagers and young adults.
“I’m trying to appeal over and over to our kids and young people from age 16 to 35,” Justice said. “I’m also calling on all the parents and grandparents to absolutely help me, but absolutely remember to protect yourself. We need so badly to get our kids vaccinated.”