By Randi Pierce
Appointments for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine — one of three authorized for use in the U.S. — are now open to those 12 to 15 years of age, with appointments available in Pagosa Springs today for anyone 12 or older.
“San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) is pleased to announce COVID vaccine appointments are available for 12 to 15-year-olds in La Plata and Archuleta counties starting this Thursday, May 13th,” a SJBPH Tuesday press release announces. “The public can now begin making appointments for 12 to 15-year-olds for Thursday or a later date.”
The vaccine was previously available to those 16 and older. The other two vaccines — Moderna and Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) — are available to those 18 and older.
“Youth ages 12 through 17 are only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. It is important that residents verify the Pfizer vaccine is being offered when signing up minors for COVID vaccine appointments or walking into a clinic,” the press release states.
Today’s (May 13) vaccine clinic at the Ross Aragon Community Center is a Pfizer clinic that will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
According to SJBPH, although advance registration is strongly encouraged, walk-ins are welcome, supply permitting.
The vaccine is free, and no ID is required.
According to Brian Devine, SJBPH environmental director and deputy incident commander for the agency’s COVID-19 response, those who are 17 and younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian or, if the appointment is made in advance, a parental consent form can be filled out as part of the registration.
The form must be filled out exactly, Devine noted.
“The eligibility of 12 to 15-year-olds for COVID vaccine is a really positive step for our community. We hope that parents and youth will jump on this opportunity right away,” said Liane Jollon, SJBPH executive director, in a press release. “Getting our youth vaccinated will help ensure in-person learning is here to stay and will protect them in their extracurriculars, sports, summer camps, and day-to-day lives. Minors are only eligible for Pfizer and we’ve been preparing for this moment by ordering extra Pfizer doses and coordinating a range of clinics and providers across the region to help get kids vaccinated as soon as possible.”
The press release further reads, “While schools have done an impressive job limiting spread of the virus within the classroom setting, ensuring safety in activities outside of school has been a challenge throughout the pandemic. Young people have been tremendously resilient over the past year in the face of obstacles and changes to their daily lives. The expanded vaccine eligibility for youth is a positive development and will help keep young people and their families safe and limit community spread of the virus.”
In the press release, SJBPH urges families to make appointments as soon as possible since it can take five or more weeks from the date of the first dose of Pfizer to reach full immunity.
Additional information about the COVID vaccine, and links to make appointments with other vaccine providers offering Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, and Pfizer clinics, can be found on SJBPH’s website: https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/.
The SJBPH press release also notes the importance of finishing the vaccine process.
“It is critical that all residents and youth finish their vaccination series and receive both doses if receiving a two-shot vaccine. Anyone who is overdue for their second dose should find a clinic that matches their original vaccine type, sign up for an appointment, and bring their vaccination record card. Studies have shown completing the two-dose regimen is the best way to ensure protection against COVID-19 and especially its variants. SJBPH urges those who are not yet fully vaccinated to continue to follow public health precautions such as wearing a properly fitted mask in public indoor settings.”
As of Wednesday, SJBPH reported that 46 percent of the county’s total population had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 42 percent considered fully vaccinated.
Among those 16 and older (the eligible population until now), 54 percent have received at least one dose, with 50 percent considered fully vaccinated.
“We really need more people in Archuleta County to get fully vaccinated” to see the decline in cases being realized now in La Plata County and elsewhere with higher vaccination rates, Devine said.
Devine noted that, since April 12, 400 people have started their vaccination series and 900 people have completed their series.
He noted that, in that time, there were 11 days that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was not available.
Devine also noted that all three authorized vaccines are effective against the United Kingdom COVID variant, which is likely the dominant strain in Colorado.
That variant, he explained, is more transmissible and is believed to be more severe.
“It puts more people in the hospital, especially at the younger age groups,” Devine said, urging continued caution and for people to be vaccinated as soon as possible.