Half of U.S. Teens Have at Least One Covid Vaccine Shot

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U.S.|Half of the adolescents in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, White House says.


Ameron Mabins, 13, receives a dose of the Pfizer vaccine, at the Wonderland of the Americas shopping center in San Antonio in May.
Credit...Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Daniel E. Slotnik

  • Aug. 27, 2021Updated 4:25 p.m. ET

Half of the 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zients, announced on Friday, a promising development in a group that has been hit harder by the Delta variant than earlier forms of the virus.

“This is critical progress as millions of kids head back to school, and, in fact, the vaccination rate among adolescents is growing faster than any other age group,” Mr. Zients said at a news conference with the White House Covid-19 Response Team. “And we will continue to do everything we can to get this group of adolescents vaccinated.”

The pace of vaccinations has picked up in recent weeks after the extremely contagious Delta variant drove a surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths around the country — all of which have reached levels not seen since last winter.

And vaccinating adolescents is particularly important now that schools are reopening, said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because children who are younger than 12 are not yet authorized to receive any of the vaccines and inoculating as many people around them as possible will help keep them safe.

“It’s human nature to protect our children above all else, and the best way to protect them is to get everyone who is eligible vaccinated and surround children who are not yet vaccine-eligible with people who are vaccinated to effectively shield them from Covid harm,” Dr. Walensky said. She added that widespread vaccination, coupled with measures like masking and social distancing, would help keep children safe in a school setting.

Data from the C.D.C. indicate that there have been nearly 4 million reported cases of Covid-19 and 385 deaths involving the disease in children 17 and younger in the United States.

Earlier this week the F.D.A. granted full approval to Pfizer’s vaccine for those ages 16 and older, but it is not yet clear when such an approval, which can make it easier to impose vaccine mandates, might be granted for adolescents and younger children.

The C.D.C. released on Friday a report on vaccine uptake in adolescents around the country, based on vaccine administration data from the District of Columbia and every state except Idaho taken from Dec. 14, 2020, to July 31, 2021.

It noted several possible limitations, including that adolescents who received their shots from different entities might not have been reported as completing their course of treatment, but concluded that vaccinating teenagers was key to a safer return to school, especially because of the Delta variant.

The study indicated that vaccination uptake varied widely by state, with adolescents in the Northeast and on the West Coast most likely to be inoculated, and those ages 16 to 17 more likely to be vaccinated than those 12 to 15. This is probably because the vaccine has been authorized for the older subset for months longer.

Some teenagers reported receiving vaccines made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson even though they have not been authorized for adolescents.

The study recommended “concerted outreach” to adolescents and their parents, and “school-based vaccination programs, such as those for seasonal influenza and routine adolescent vaccination,” to get more shots in arms.

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