Megan Sims, 13, holds up her vaccination record card and a vaccination pin from Beaumont after being vaccinated May 13. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recommended administration of the Pfizer vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds May 12.

Megan Sims, 13, holds up her vaccination record card and a vaccination pin from Beaumont after being vaccinated May 13. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recommended administration of the Pfizer vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds May 12.

Photo provided by Beaumont Health


Beaumont offers Pfizer vaccine for ages 12-15

By: Jonathan Shead | Metro | Published May 27, 2021

 Beaumont Hospital, Troy, pediatric nurse practitioner Sarah Rauner places a pin on the shirt of her son, Koby Rauner, 14, after he received the Pfizer vaccine May 13.

Beaumont Hospital, Troy, pediatric nurse practitioner Sarah Rauner places a pin on the shirt of her son, Koby Rauner, 14, after he received the Pfizer vaccine May 13.

Photo provided by Beaumont Health

METRO DETROIT — After being one of the first children to receive her first dose of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine at the Beaumont Service Center, in Southfield, Megan Sims, 13, now wants to advocate for other children her age to get vaccinated as well.

“A lot of the people there were scared of needles, and I was scared too, but it’s better to get the COVID vaccine, because you can get immune to the virus,” she said.

As of May 13, Beaumont Health began providing the Pfizer vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds in the region, after receiving the recommendation from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to begin immunizing youth in that age range.

The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice both approved the increased age eligibility, the former through an expanded emergency use authorization.

The COVID-19 vaccine can now be given to a person on the same day or at the same time as other vaccines for all age groups, a MDHHS press release said.

“It’s great news to have a safe and effective vaccine available to protect younger Michiganders as we work to eliminate COVID-19 once and for all,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “We are incredibly proud that the Pfizer vaccine, which is now approved to protect our children, is manufactured right here in Michigan. As a parent, I encourage all parents with children in this group to have a conversation with your family doctor about the vaccine as soon as possible.”

Data collected by Pfizer during a study of the vaccine on youth 12 years and older showed that the potential benefits of immunizing children in the age range outweigh the known potential risks, the FDA said. The study included 2,260 participants ages 12-15, 1,131 of whom received the vaccine, and 1,129 who received a saline placebo.

Beaumont Health Director of Infectious Disease Research Dr. Michael Sims — Megan’s father — said the vaccine was 100% effective on children in that age range, but he cautioned that may be because “COVID doesn’t affect children as much to begin with, so that may be why,” he said.

Beaumont offers administration of the Pfizer vaccine for ages 12-15 currently at its Beaumont Service Center, 26901 Beaumont Blvd. in Southfield, and Beaumont Hospital, Troy. Walk-ins and appointments are available, though only the first vaccine dose can be given during a walk-in. Minors must be with a parent or guardian.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit beaumont.org/vaccine-walk-in.

“Everybody that we can vaccinate is a step in the right direction,” Sims said. “Every single person who is at risk for getting the virus at all that we can vaccine, and then make immune, removing them from essentially being a potential spreader of the virus, is one less person who can spread the virus, and it makes it less and less likely to spread through the state and cause another surge.”

Despite availability issues early on, Sims doesn’t believe the state will see any similar issues as they roll out these expanded eligibility guidelines.

“As far as I know, we have pretty good availability right now. There’s still a lot of adults that need to be vaccinated, but there’s a fair amount of hesitancy, so there’s good availability of the vaccine,” he said, but he added that he wishes there weren’t as much hesitancy in adults.

“I do everything I can to address those issues of why it’s a good idea to get the vaccine, and what the science shows; try to debunk myths and to really help people understand, because it’s about understanding and education that will make people more comfortable, I hope. That’s part of what I’m here for.”

Sims acknowledges some parents may question why they should get their child vaccinated as well, especially considering that the virus doesn’t make children as sick as others more at risk.

“While the chances of severe problems are low, they’re not zero, and we don’t know what the long-term issues are,” Sims said. A 5-year-old passed away from COVID at one of Beaumont’s hospitals, he added.

According to CDC data, between March 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021, more than 1.5 million positive COVID-19 cases involving 11- to 17-year-olds were reported to the CDC. Michigan has seen more than 102,000 cases, and 11 deaths involving COVID-19, in 10- to 19-year-olds.

“If we want to protect all these people, we do it by vaccinating everybody we can. How did we get rid of smallpox? We vaccinated everybody. How did we get polio to the point where it’s almost unheard of? We vaccinated everybody. How do we get COVID under control? We vaccinate everybody,” Sims said.

 

Vaccines and the classroom
Megan can’t wait for her classmates to get vaccinated. “I really want people to get the vaccine so that we can go back to school and visit with friends again. I know a lot of people are nervous about it,” she said. “I just want people to be safe so that we can return to school and reach a new normal.”

MDHHS Public Information Officer Lynn Sutfin said in an email, however, that the MDHHS will not require any educator or student to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend school in the fall.

“There are no plans at this time to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan. As far as mitigation strategies, we are reviewing CDC guidance and working on guidance for schools,” she said in the email. Sutfin did not respond to questions regarding whether the MDHHS will require students to be immunized against COVID-19 in the future, as they do with other vaccines under the current immunization laws.

The MDHHS updated its face mask recommendations for Michiganders May 20, which advised school districts to continue to follow the CDC’s operational strategies for K-12 schools guidelines. A day earlier, May 19, Whitmer revealed the state’s Comprehensive Student Recovery Blueprint for Michigan students to address challenges they face — such as health and wellness, academics, school culture, family and community engagement, and postsecondary education — to provide them with the resources to recover from the pandemic’s effects in the classroom.

“The most pressing challenges schools face aren’t new, but they have been exacerbated by the pandemic, resulting economic hardship and social divisions,” Whitmer said in a May 19 press release. “(This blueprint) will not only help local education leaders comprehensively address immediate challenges, but it will also move us towards an education system that works better for all of our children.” 

For more information, visit michigan.gov/mdhhs.