YKHC staff members package vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 16, 2020. (Katie Basile/KYUK)

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation is asking all parents and guardians of 12- to 15-year-olds to sign their child up for a COVID-19 vaccine.

While the vaccine is not yet approved for the age group, Southwest Alaska’s tribal health organization says it wants to be able to quickly dispense the doses once the authorization comes.

“If you have kids in that age group, we want you to go ahead and complete our online form at YKHC.org so that we can start planning our vaccine clinics for when we can start vaccinating our adolescents,” said Dr. Ellen Hodges, chief of staff at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.

Hodges said she’s anticipating that emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will arrive soon for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

On March 31, Pfizer announced results from its COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial in children ages 12 to 15.

The company’s data shows the vaccine is 100% effective at preventing COVID-19 in this age group. In the trial, 1,131 adolescents received the vaccine and none developed symptoms of COVID-19. Also, no serious side effects occurred. Results show the vaccine to be more effective in this age group than in adults.

In total, 2,260 adolescents participated in the trial. Of the 1,129 children who received placebos, 18 developed COVID-19.

The company’s results have not been peer reviewed or published in a scientific journal. If the FDA authorizes the vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, parental or guardian permission will be required for vaccination. Following authorization, Hodges hopes to vaccinate every child in the age group in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

“I think it’s a great way to keep our kids safe, and I know all of us are sort of desperate to get our kids back in school and get back to school sports,” said Hodges. “This is our way to get there by vaccinating that age group.”

The vaccinations could also help keep students in the classroom. Under CDC guidelines, fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine after exposure to someone who’s tested positive for the virus.

“Right now, if we have a kid in the school who tests positive, we have to quarantine anyone who’s been within 6 feet of that kid, so this will allow us to really keep the schools open and keep everything much safer,” Hodges said.

Hodges said that YKHC is working with school districts to create parental consent forms for 12- to 15-year-olds to be vaccinated in schools in case the vaccine is authorized for them before the semester ends. The vaccine clinic would be similar to flu vaccination clinics done in schools.

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