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White House Steps Up Effort to Encourage COVID Shots for Adolescents

May 13, 2021 by TWN Staff
A vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo by Dan McCue)

The White House is stepping up its efforts to encourage the parents of adolescents age 12-15 to get their kids vaccinated against COVID-19.

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer BioN-Tech vaccine to include individuals ages 12-15.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices followed suit, voting 14-0 with one recusal, to endorse adolescents as young as 12 to start receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine immediately.

The 14-0 vote, with one recusal, was part of the final process before the shot becomes widely available to the younger population.

In the wake of these decisions, the White House is taking immediate steps to encourage vaccination for young people in this age group.

These include making vaccinations available in more places—including offices of providers families know and trust.

To reach this age group, the administration will make the Pfizer vaccine even more available in communities across the country, including by providing smaller vaccine package sizes that some providers need to serve their communities, once they are available.

Additionally, through partnerships with pediatricians, family medicine physicians, and local pharmacies, the administration will help bring vaccinations to teens and their parents in places they know and trust.

Pediatricians and Family Practitioners

CDC has launched a focused effort, in partnership with states, to enroll more pediatricians and family practitioners as COVID-19 vaccination providers to continue to expand access to vaccinations over the coming weeks. CDC will continue to increase enrollment through direct outreach, communications and technical assistance, and will work with states to make sure that these providers have the resources and vaccine supply they need to make vaccinations available to patients and their families. 

CDC, together with the Health Resources and Services Administration, will also partner with community health centers nationwide—providers that families depend on year-round—to make vaccinations available for teens.

Local Pharmacies

Currently, more than 15,000 pharmacies nationwide are receiving Pfizer supply. CDC will work with federal pharmacy partners to ensure that this supply is made available for this newly eligible age group, and to direct supply to fill geographic gaps in order to ensure that more teens have access to this vaccine at their local pharmacy.

CDC will also partner with states and federal pharmacy partners to engage pharmacists and pharmacy technicians and to deploy best practices in reaching teens and their families.

Medicaid Providers

A full 40% of the nation’s children are enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. To reach adolescents enrolled in the program, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will partner with state Medicaid programs and Medicaid managed care plans to conduct outreach and answer parent and teen questions.

CMS will send a Center Information Bulletin encouraging all state Medicaid officials to work with their pediatrician and primary care provider community to enroll in the COVID-19 vaccination program, and work directly with Medicaid managed care plans to use case managers to support families in getting their children vaccinated through education, outreach, and appointment and transportation support.

Education and Outreach Efforts

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will launch a coordinated campaign—including paid, social and earned media—with a focus on using trusted messengers to reach teens and their parents. As part of this work, HHS will launch new tool kits and FAQ sheets to provide teens, their parents, and clinicians with the information they need.

This includes resources to help support parents, clinicians, schools and community organizations when discussing the vaccine. And, as we move into August, the agency will launch “back to school” partnerships to support vaccinations as part of annual physicals and sports physicals to keep kids healthy.

Additionally the administration is conducting a number of outreach activities this week to kick off this effort.

Following initial FDA approval, HHS held webinars and listening sessions with the American Academy of Pediatrics, hundreds of pharmacy partners, and a group of dozens of education organizations, including the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of School Nurses, and the National Parent Teacher Association.

The CDC is following up by holding town halls this week with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Camp Association, Indian Health Service providers, the American State and Territorial Health Association, the Big City Health Coalition, and the Infectious Disease Society of America.

In the coming two weeks, the administration will host “We Can Do This Live” events with celebrities and influencers who have the ability to reach out to teens and their parents.

Later this week, HHS will send outreach materials and fact sheets to 11,000 Community Corps member organizations to share with their networks.

HHS will host a call this week with the National Governors Association to put out the key messages around adolescent vaccination and address any early questions around delivery of the vaccine to pediatricians and family physicians.

Next week, HHS will host a Parents Roundtable with Surgeon General Murthy and Community Corps partners to address specific questions parents have.

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