NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – COVID-19 vaccines could start rolling out to adolescents next week as the FDA is reportedly days away from the additional approved use of the Pfizer vaccine in people ages 12 to 15 years old. New Mexico state health officials say thousands of kids in that age group are already signed up for a shot.
The New Mexico Department of Health says about 15% of an estimated 53,000 kids ages 12 to 15 are already registered for vaccination through the state’s online registration portal. The state is likely to immediately start letting parents book Pfizer vaccination appointments through the online portal once the FDA grants approval for the vaccine’s use in younger populations.
“At this point, more than 8,000 parents have registered their 12 to 15-year-old at VaccineNM.org and we expect that number to climb,” said Matt Bieber, New Mexico Department of Health Communications Director. “We hope to see many more because the sooner they’re registered, the easier it is for us to plan vaccination events, send out notifications, help facilitate self-scheduling.”
Preparation for the next young age group comes as the state has focused efforts in recent weeks on vaccinating high school-aged students. Of the estimated 55,318 people who are ages 16 through 17-years-old, nearly 30% of them already have one shot. About 7% are considered fully vaccinated.
New Mexico’s youth vaccination rates should have a big impact on what happens in the next school year. The New Mexico Department of Health says the state’s Public Education Department Secretary Ryan Stewart will address the state’s plan soon.
“Obviously, school has been one of the institutions of our society that has been most dramatically affected (by COVID-19,)” Bieber said. “And everyone’s asking that question of what will it look like next fall and beyond, so there are some important questions to answer and I think I will leave the answers to (the education secretary) to address in a couple weeks’ time.”
Ultimately, youth vaccinations won’t play a role in New Mexico’s planned economic reopening, expected to occur at the end of June 2021. The state says it’s still aiming for 60% of people ages 16 and over to become fully vaccinated before dropping the color-coded county-by-county reopening system.
The New Mexico Department of Health says it doesn’t think it will have a hard time convincing parents to get their kids vaccinated, either. Addressing the topic Tuesday, Bieber told KRQE News 13 the state is confident in the demand for youth vaccination based on the success of clinic trials.
“The clinical trials for this 12 to 15-year-old group were basically yielded almost the same results that we saw among the adult population,” Bieber said. “Highly effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths from COVID 19, incredibly safe, we’re basically seeing the mirror of what we safe before, and we haven’t seen much in the way of concern among the parents of that age group.”
Pfizer is also in the process of testing its vaccine on kids with ages ranging from six months through 11 years old. The company is hoping shots could be available for kids 11 and younger early next year.
Moderna is also expecting results soon from its vaccine trials on people between the ages of 12 to 17 years old. They’re expected to launch trials for younger kids, including in New Mexico by summer.