Courtesy illustration

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last Monday expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include 12- to 15-year-olds.
“The FDA’s expansion of the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents 12 through 15 years of age is a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock.
From March 1, 2020, through April 30, 2021, about 1.5 million COVID-19 cases in children ages 12-17 were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children and adolescents generally have a milder COVID-19 reaction than adults, according to the CDC.
Youngsters getting the Pfizer vaccine will get two doses, three weeks apart — the same regimen for those ages 16 and older.
Prior to releasing the vaccine for kids, 2,260 participants ages 12-15 enrolled in an ongoing clinical trial in the U.S., according to the CDC. Of these, 1,131 adolescent participants received the vaccine and 1,129 received a placebo. More than half of participants were followed for safety for at least two months after the second dose.
According to the CDC, the most commonly reported side effects, which typically lasted one to three days, were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain. With the exception of pain at the injection site, more adolescents in the test reported these side effects after the second dose than after the first dose.
Not every individual’s experience will be the same and some people may not experience side effects.
The New Mexico Department of Health followed the federal approval of the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds with its own May 12.
Parents may register and schedule their children for vaccination at VaccineNM.org. More information:
• Vaccinations for New Mexicans under 18 require parental consent, and Pfizer is the only vaccine available for anyone under 18.
• Vaccinations are free.
• No identification is required.
• Vaccines are available regardless of immigration status.
Good news for the state
The New Mexico DOH announced on Thursday that New Mexico has reached a key milestone: 50 percent of eligible New Mexicans are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, and more than 61 percent of eligible New Mexicans have received at least one dose.
“More than half of eligible New Mexicans are now fully vaccinated, far above the national average of 35 percent. We’re well on our way to 60 percent fully vaccinated — and a long-awaited reopening,” said DOH Cabinet Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins.
Organizations can request on-site vaccination events at getvaxnm.com.

Would money motivate shots?
More than 148 million Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to The New York Times, but the pace has slowed over the past three weeks.
A few states — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is mulling this over — are handing out cash for getting vaccinated.
At yesterday’s New Mexico United soccer game at Isotopes Park, up to 150 people were expected to get their first shots before the game, and they received a voucher for a free ticket to a future United game. The United, the NMDOH and Western Sky Community Care partnered in that venture.
As of May 10, more than 1 million New Mexicans had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines. Deaths in the state and county have continued to plummet.
Although 4,067 New Mexicans had died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, there were 131 deaths in the state reported in April, with eight of those in Sandoval County, according to DOH counts. This month through May 13, there had been 60 statewide deaths, with three deaths in the county.

Can we lose those masks?
The governor’s office announced Friday that the state had adopted the CDC’s new guidance on mask-wearing.
Fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear a mask or physically distance during outdoor or indoor activities — large or small — federal health officials said last week.
They should still wear a mask while using mass transportation, and the guidance doesn’t apply to places like hospitals, nursing homes and prisons, the CDC said Thursday. The fully protected can resume normal activities.
People should also continue to wear masks in communities and businesses that require it, according to the governor’s office.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said: “We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy. That moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated.”
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Those who develop symptoms, even after vaccination, should put on a mask and get tested right away, Walensky said.

Gary Herron | Observer staff writer