Military clinics in Europe gear up to give Pfizer vaccine to kids as young as 12
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Some U.S. military health clinics in Europe are preparing to give the coronavirus vaccine to children as young as 12, Army and Air Force officials said.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to arrive in Europe early next week, medical officials said Friday.
“We will receive enough doses for all eligible 12- to 17-year-olds to receive first and second doses,” Air Force Lt. Col. Elizabeth Erickson, acting command surgeon for U.S. European Command, said in a statement.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to include those ages 12 to 15. The vaccine was already approved for ages 16 and up.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee also signed off on the two-dose jab, citing the low risk the vaccine has posed so far among the age group in clinical trials.
The Defense Department hasn’t yet authorized the vaccine for the 12-15 age group but is expected to weigh in by Saturday, officials in Japan at Yokosuka Naval Base said Friday on Facebook.
This will be the first time the Pfizer vaccine will be available at U.S. bases in Europe.
Moderna has been the primary vaccine shipped overseas because of the ultra-cold storage requirements for Pfizer. Some bases have also received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Both vaccines are authorized for ages 18 and up.
Once it arrives, the Pfizer vaccine will be available at all Army military treatment facilities in Europe, said Gino Mattorano, a spokesman for Regional Health Command Europe. Each clinic will announce when the vaccine will be available at their location, he said.
Air Force bases in Europe are expected to begin distributing the Pfizer vaccine next week, said 2nd Lt. Charis Bryan, a spokeswoman for U.S. Forces in Europe — Air Forces Africa.
“DOD affiliated personnel ages 12-17 will be the primary recipients, but additional categories may also receive this vaccination if they choose,” Bryan said in a statement Friday.
Distribution may vary by location, she said.
Several Army bases have announced tentative plans for Pfizer immunization clinics for ages 12 to 17, with appointments available at: https://informatics-stage.health.mil/COVAX/.
The Wiesbaden Army Health Clinic has set aside May 27 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Hainerberg Bookmart in the base strip mall in Wiesbaden. Appointments will open once the vaccine arrives, the clinic’s Facebook page said.
In Belgium, SHAPE Healthcare Facility has penciled in May 24, pending vaccine arrival, a Facebook announcement said. One Saturday vaccination clinic is also planned.
At Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, first-dose immunizations are tentatively planned for May 24-27 and June 2.
Ramstein Air Base said due to freezer storage limitations, the base will continue to offer only the Moderna vaccine to eligible beneficiaries 18 and older. Ramstein beneficiaries are eligible to receive the Pfizer immunization at LRMC.
U.S. Naval Hospital Naples, the largest Navy hospital in Europe, did not immediately say Friday whether it would be offering the Pfizer vaccine.
Mattorano said the Pfizer vaccine will be shipped to facilities that have ultra-cold storage capability. From there, it will be redistributed to clinics to support vaccination events for those ages 12 to 17. The vaccine can be stored for up to 14 days at facilities that do not have ultra-cold storage, he said.