SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Vaccine eligibility expands for all Georgians 16 and older on Thursday.
Local health leaders say one group that can really make a difference in the fight against COVID-19 are young people.
It has been a long and difficult year for families with children not being in school and learning virtually. Local pediatricians, like Dr. Ben Spitalnick, believe Thursday’s vaccine eligibility expansion brings some much-needed hope.
“This is going to be really a game changer and overwhelmingly our parents are excited. Their biggest concern is where can I get it and how soon can I get it,” Dr. Spitalnick, with Pediatric Associates of Savannah, said.
Teens ages 16 and 17 will only be eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. The Chief Pediatric Officer at Memorial Health says that’s because young people ages 16 and up were included in that vaccine trial.
“After review of the safety data thinking about, are there any differences physiologically between a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old? It was felt that it was very likely that the preliminary information they had for 16 and up would reflect what an 18-year-old or older person would experience as well, and this would be a safe vaccine that generated a reliable, protective antibody response,” Dr. Stephen Thacker said.
As eligibility expands, Dr. Thacker says Moderna and Pfizer have completed enrollment for clinical trials for kids 12 and up. He says we can expect to hear more about the safety and effectiveness of their trials soon.
“That means children could potentially safely receive vaccinations against COVID-19 as we head into the summer,” Dr. Thacker said.
And for those who match the criteria and are looking to get vaccinated, Dr. Spitalnick says like any shot, a mild reaction is possible. But he advises families to get the vaccine and not to wait until your pediatrician has it.
“If you have access sooner, get the vaccine sooner. And by the way, if you are over the age of 18, the best one you can get is whatever one you can get to first,” Dr. Spitalnick said.
Dr. Spitalnick says most pediatricians will carry the vaccine but don’t have them just yet. He says right now, do what you can to get vaccinated at GEMA’s mass vaccination site or through the Department of Public Health.