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Here’s what Arizona parents should know about COVID-19 vaccines for kids

FILE - This Jan. 24, 2021, file photo shows a vial of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 in Seattle. U.S. regulators expanded use of Pfizer's shot to those as young as 12, sparking a race to protect middle and high school students before they head back to class in the fall. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

PHOENIX – Federal authorities have given clearance for kids 12-15 to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Food and Drug Administration officials approved the expansion Monday, and then Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisers endorsed the move Wednesday.

As a result, Arizona’s state-run mass vaccination sites will start serving the youngest eligible age group on Thursday morning.

Other Pfizer providers in the state are also expected to quickly lower their age requirements, although the timing could vary by location.

“We’re very excited about adding 12 and up potentially as soon as tomorrow,” Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Wednesday.

People as young as 16 have been eligible for the Pfizer vaccine since March. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson versions are limited to adults 18 and over.

Here’s what Arizona parents and guardians need to know about getting their tweens and younger teens vaccinated against COVID-19:

Where can kids 12-15 get shots?

All seven state-run sites – Gila River Arena in Glendale, Dexcom in Mesa, Desert Financial Arena in Tempe and WestWorld of Scottsdale, plus locations in Tucson, Flagstaff and Yuma — use Pfizer, as do many Walgreens, CVS, Fry’s, Safeway, Albertson’s and Costco pharmacies in Maricopa and Pima counties.

Pfizer providers are scarce or nonexistent in other counties, although ADHS said it’s working to get the shots for kids to the state’s rural regions.

Nearly 200 locations in metro Phoenix offer Pfizer, including some doctor’s offices and health clinics, according to the Maricopa County locator map.

State and county health officials are also working to set up pop-up vaccine events for students.

“I know that our county health departments are starting to reach out to schools to see if they are interested,” Christ said.

“Maricopa County has been working with some of the schools where they offered school-based PODs [points of dispensing] for teachers earlier in the year to see if they’re interested. We’re looking at potentially setting up a school-based POD.”

Where can I find a list of Pfizer sites?

Both the state and Maricopa County health departments have locator web pages that are sortable by vaccine type.

For the statewide page, click the small arrow on the left of the map and then click the Pfizer button.

The Maricopa County map has a dropdown to sort by vaccine type on the upper left.

When can kids 12-15 start getting shots?

“You can walk in or make an appointment starting [8 a.m. Thursday] to any state vaccination site,” Christ said.

Spots at the state-run sites can be secured at https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov/ or by calling 844-542-8201.

The state and county locater pages mentioned in the previous section include links to details and registration portals for other vaccine providers.

Do I need proof of age for my child?

No. While parents and guardians must accompany their children, bring their own ID and fill out consent forms, they don’t need documentation for the kids.

“What we are asking parents, because we know that it’s difficult for 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds to get photo ID, they will need to come in person with their child and attest that that’s their child or that they’re the guardian and then that that child is 12 or above,” Christ said.

What kind of side effects can my child expect?

Side effects are the same as adults experience, mostly sore arms and flu-like fever, chills or aches that signal the immune system is revving up.

But not surprisingly, they were a little more common in the kids during trials. Headache, for example, occurred in half of people 16 and older but in three-quarters of the younger teens in Pfizer’s studies.

How was the vaccine tested in kids?

A study of more than 2,000 12- to 15-year-olds found that the Pfizer vaccine offers strong protection.

There were no cases of COVID-19 among volunteers given the two-shot vaccination compared with 16 in the group given dummy shots. Kids got the same dose as adults but developed even higher levels of virus-fighting antibodies.

What about further vaccine expansion?

Moderna recently said preliminary results from its study in 12- to 17-year-olds show strong protection and no serious side effects, data the FDA will need to scrutinize.

As for even younger children, Modern and Pfizer have both begun tests in youngsters ages 6 months to 11 years. Those studies explore if different doses are needed at the youngest ages, and FDA plans to hold a public meeting next month to debate exactly what evidence is needed.

What’s the best source for more information?

Dr. Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former ADHS director, said parents seeking more information about vaccinating their kids should rely on their pediatricians.

“That’s who parents trust,” Humble told KTAR News’ The Mike Broomhead Show on Tuesday. “Those are the folks that have seen their kids since they were 6 months old, before that probably. It’s who they trust, and that’s where they should go for the additional information.

“Don’t listen to me. Don’t listen to Facebook. Listen to your doctor.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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For Arizona vaccine information, visit azdhs.gov/findvaccine.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

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