Tulare County begins vaccinations for ages 12 to 15

Middle school aged students can only receive Pfizer vaccine and must be accompanied by a parent or guardian

TULARE COUNTY – Students with the potential to spread coronavirus faster than any other group, but are among the least likely to fall ill from it, are now eligible for the vaccine.

Tulare County Public Health officials announced last Friday children ages 12-15, regardless of health conditions or immigration status, are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine for free.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, May 10, 2021.The FDA amended the original EUA issued on December 11, 2020, for individuals 16 years of age and older. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends COVID 19 vaccine for all children and adolescents 12 and over unless they have a contraindication, a medical reason for not taking medications or vaccinations because they may cause serious harm to the patient.

“The announcement allows our younger population to be protected and to protect their families and friends, and allows for a greater sense of normalcy for this age group,” Tulare County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Haught said. “The pandemic has been especially hard on children, young adults, and our vulnerable populations. Taking another step toward normalcy is a critical step in public health efforts to lessen the burden that has been felt in so many ways, by so many people.”

This age group was among the last to go back to school because they were found to have a high rate of spread. Throughout the latter part of 2020, scientific studies showed pre-pubescent children spread the virus at a slower rate than those who have reached puberty, which generally happens between the ages of 10 and 13. Visalia Unified repeatedly cited these studies when explaining its decision to stagger its returns beginning with grades K-2 in November and eventually worked their way up to middle and high school in March.

Some sites may require those ages 12-15 be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Please ensure you call or visit the County’s COVID-19 Vaccine website for more vaccination locations at covid19.tularecounty.ca.gov/covid-19-vaccine, which includes a full listing of health care providers and local pharmacies offering COVID vaccinations. There are three approved COVID vaccines but at this time only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for children and adolescents between 12-18.

Most of Tulare County’s larger school districts said they did not have plans of holding any of their own vaccination clinics but did not rule out working with the county on future events. Exeter Unified Superintendent George Eddy said his district had a contract allowing the county use of their facilities for vaccinations but said they had not been contacted by the county about holding a clinic for students as of press time. Brian Griffin, director of student services at Lindsay Unified, said Tulare County has held public-sponsored testing and vaccination events at the high school in the past but do not have any future clinics scheduled as of press time.

Porterville Unified has already held a vaccination clinic for students. On May 11, the district vaccinated over 150 students at Monache High School during one of Tulare County’s vaccination clinics on campus, according to public information officer Jason Pommier. Students also had the option of attending a clinic at Porterville College on Monday. More county clinics will be held at PUSD facilities this week, including today, May 19 at Granite Hills High School and Friday, May 21 at Harmony Magnet Academy in Strathmore. All of the clinics are held from 4 to 7 p.m. and walk-ins are welcome. Minors 16 to 17 must have written permission from a parent or guardian and youth ages 12 to 15 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

To make an appointment, visit the Curative link on the Tulare County COVID-19 Vaccine web page at curative.com/sites/26207. The Tulare County COVID-19 Call Center is also available to assist those without internet access and non-English–speaking residents in obtaining a vaccination; just call 559-685-2260.

  1. Your Health Care Provider or Doctor: We strongly recommend that youth with underlying health conditions or disabilities seek vaccination from a primary health care provider or health clinic. Check first with your usual health care providers to see if they have vaccines and available appointments. Health care providers who have vaccines may also begin reaching out to you, as a patient with a significant, high-risk medical condition or disability known to the provider, to schedule your vaccine appointment.
  2. Pharmacies: You can check your local pharmacies to see if they have vaccines and available appointments.
  3. Community Pop-Up Clinics: Community pop-up clinics continue to target those living in communities with the lowest Healthy Place Index scores. Community partners will reach out to people eligible for the pop-up clinics.
  4. My Turn: Effective May 13, those 12 and older can be scheduled for an appointment through California’s My Turn. Currently, individuals who are age 16 and older regardless of health conditions can register for an appointment, in two ways:
    • On-line at myturn.ca.gov. The My Turn website is accessible to people with disabilities and in eight languages: English, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Japanese.
    • Call the COVID-19 Hotline at 1-833-422-4255 or 1-833-4CA-4ALL. The Hotline is accessible to people with disabilities and offers services in English and Spanish, with connections to interpretive services in more than 250 languages.

It remains extremely important that all residents, vaccinated or not, continue to maintain safety precautions to prevent the spread of the disease, including masking and social distancing, until vaccinations are widely distributed. Residents must always wear a face mask or covering while in environments where physical distancing is not possible and while in public settings. In addition, everyone is encouraged to frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer, regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces, and stay home if you are sick or instructed to isolate/quarantine by a medical or public health professional.

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