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Oregon, Washington approve COVID-19 vaccine for kids 12 and older

A review by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup concluded Wednesday night that Pfizer's vaccine is safe for kids ages 12-15.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Kids 12 and older are now eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Oregon and Washington state, health officials announced Wednesday night.

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup reviewed the federal process to authorize the vaccine for kids 12-15 and concluded that the vaccine is safe and effective for that age group. The workgroup represents Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada.

Kids 12-15 can start getting vaccinated at the Oregon Convention Center mass vaccination site in Portland on Thursday. Those who are 12-14 must be with a parent or legal guardian. If someone other than a parent or guardian comes with them, they will need to provide proof of parent/guardian consent.

“This is great news for Oregon children, parents, and families," Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement following the announcement. "Vaccination is the best tool we have to protect ourselves and our loved ones. With today’s review by leading doctors, pediatricians, and health experts, young Oregonians and parents can be confident in the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for youth."

"It is completely normal for parents and kids to have questions about vaccines––I urge you to reach out to your family doctor or pharmacist and get your questions answered today," she added. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said, “We are very pleased that teens can now be vaccinated. We have seen an increase in cases among this age group, and we can now make sure they are protected with the vaccine. This will further help us bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The announcement comes just hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) accepted U.S. health advisors' endorsement of the Pfizer vaccine for kids 12 and older. 

On Tuesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced her vaccination goal to fully reopen the state's economy. Brown set the target at 70% of Oregonians 16 and older receiving a first vaccine dose before lifting most of the state's restrictions. 

Vaccinations for children 15 and younger will not count toward the 70% goal.

Before statewide restrictions are lifted, counties that have at least 65% of their residents vaccinated and submit an equity plan can move to the lowest risk level. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave Pfizer's vaccine emergency use authorization for people 16 and older last December. Since then, more than 1,850,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered in Oregon alone. 

The FDA says the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks of COVID-19. Dr. Jennifer Vines, health officer for Portland's tri-county area, says that's important for parents to consider when deciding whether to vaccinate their child.

The CDC says side effects of the Pfizer vaccine are generally mild to moderate. They include arm pain, swelling and, especially after the second dose, fever, chills, tiredness and headache.

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