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The Food and Drug Administration approved the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for ages 12 to 17 on Monday, May 10, 2021. That decision was later endorsed by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for ages 12 to 17 on Monday, May 10, 2021. That decision was later endorsed by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel. (Lawrence Sena/U.S. Air Force)

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Three COVID-19 variants “of concern” have been identified among a handful of coronavirus samples collected on Guam this spring, according to the U.S. territory’s Joint Information Center.

Seven samples taken in March and April underwent genome sequencing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which returned the results to Guam’s Department of Public Health and Social Services on Wednesday.

Of those, four were identified as the United Kingdom variant, one was the California variant and one was the South African variant.

“These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19,” the coronavirus respiratory disease, the CDC said on its website. “An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.”

So far, the CDC said, studies suggest that all authorized vaccines are effective against these variants; however, more studies are underway.

To date, Guam has submitted 86 COVID-19 samples to the CDC for genome sequencing, according to the information center. The California variant first appeared in a batch received March 19, while the U.K variant showed up in a set received May 3.

“It has been verified that none of the patients who tested positive with the variants were fully immunized with the COVID-19 vaccine,” the information center said Wednesday.

Guam announced on Thursday that it is expanding eligibility for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to minors ages 12 to 17, effective immediately. On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the two-shot Pfizer vaccine for that age group. A CDC advisory panel has since endorsed the FDA decision.

The island has recorded 8,063 COVID-19 cases and 139 deaths during the pandemic.

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