Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 12-15. Now, state and local health officials are poised to reach a largely unvaccinated demographic.
Prior to today’s recommendation, COVID-19 vaccinations in Wisconsin were only permitted for people aged 16 and older.
Children and teenagers under sixteen are the last groups to be eligible for the vaccine. Here in Wisconsin, they’re a fifth of the state’s overall population, according to the state’s Department of Health Services.
Julie Willems Van Dijk, Deputy Secretary of the DHS, told reporters ahead of today’s announcement that Wisconsin is set to administer vaccines to twelve to fifteen year olds as early as tomorrow.
“As soon as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices releases their guidelines, DHS will be ready,” Van Dijk told reporters. “If the guidelines are as simple as an expansion of the age range, then we will update the standing order tonight and vaccinations can begin tomorrow. If the guidelines contain additional clinical considerations that are unique to this age group, we’ll be ready to move forward as soon as they are released in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report — which will come out later this week.”
The expansion of vaccine eligibility comes as Wisconsin has hit a plateau in its distribution efforts. According to numbers from the DHS, the state’s seven-day average for vaccinations has hit its lowest point since late January.
Statewide, nearly forty percent of all Wisconsinites have completed a full vaccine series — or roughly 2.2 million people. About half of all Dane County residents, roughly 270,000 people, have gotten all of their doses, according to Public Health Madison and Dane County.
Doctor Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer of the DHS’ Bureau of Communicable Diseases, says teenagers are currently more likely than any other age group to be infected by COVID-19 variants.
“Now I think that’s partly because they are the least likely to be vaccinated. But we do know that these variants are more infectious among all age groups,” Westergaard said. “We should also say that the number of infections in children at this moment are still not as high as they were in November/December.”
Nationally, there have been 33,651 new cases and an additional 684 deaths from COVID-19 today. That’s according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Meanwhile, here in Wisconsin, the DHS reported 558 new cases and 18 deaths today.
(PHOTO: Hakan Nural / Unsplash)