Dallas County, Texas – When Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins asked his 15-year-old daughter if she wanted to be vaccinated in public, Madeleine was overjoyed to be on television like her father.
Then she thought seriously about what protection from COVID-19 would mean.
“I wanted to get vaccinated so that I can see my friends and also so that I can protect my grandparents,” she said.
The journey to that reality began Thursday when Madeleine and a handful of her friends were among the first children in Dallas County to be inoculated. Federal regulators this week approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for those as young as 12.
Dallas County, Parkland Health & Hospital System and other providers across North Texas are expected to begin offering the two-dose shots Friday at mass vaccine hubs.
Vaccinating adolescents is the latest milestone in the country’s fight against the coronavirus. Many see this next phase to be among the most crucial steps to returning to normal.
The Pfizer vaccine was 100% effective among 12- to 15-year-olds in a trial that federal regulators used to base their decision. And shortly after the event at Parkland, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in most places.
It’s not clear what initial demand might be among families with eligible children. Elected and public health officials have fought both hesitancy and an imbalance of supply and demand.
With vaccines — especially the Pfizer brand — in bountiful supply, the fight going forward appears to be convincing holdouts.
“I wanted to reassure moms and dads that the vaccine is safe,” Jenkins said after Madeleine got her shot. “There’s more freedom. And there’s more security after being vaccinated.”
State officials also announced Thursday that doctors’ offices and neighborhood pharmacies are beginning to vaccinate the newly eligible population.
And they expect most kids will be vaccinated at their private doctor’s office or a neighborhood pharmacy. The state has made it possible for individual providers to order small amounts of the vaccine. Previously, doses could only be shipped by the thousands, making it nearly impossible for private doctors offices to store.
The state estimates about 1.7 million kids between 12 and 15 are now eligible for the shot. In Dallas County, about 6% of the population, or 162,000 kids, can get inoculated. Since the beginning of the pandemic last March, Dallas County has recorded nearly 42,000 COVID cases in children 17 and younger. That’s about 16% of all cases. Two Dallas County children 17 and younger died — far less than 1 percent of all deaths.
More recently, pediatric cases have made up a larger share of new cases, in large part because the numbers in other age groups have fallen.
While it’s unclear what sort of initial demand there will be for the vaccine, state officials are expecting a surge of shots during the late summer as the new school year approaches. The vaccine will not immediately be mandatory for school attendance.
“This is a really big step to ensure safety for schools to reopen,” said Imelda Garcia, associate commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services. She urged parents to vaccinate their children against COVID-19 and make sure they are up to date on their other shots, too.
How to get a vaccine
Dallas County’s Fair Park vaccine site will begin offering vaccines to anyone 12 and older Friday without an appointment. The site opens at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday. The site will be open this Saturday too. Parental permission is required. However, parents are not required to be there.
Three Parkland sites will also offer shots without appointments. All minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian authorized to consent for the minor at the Parkland sites.
- Ellis Davis Field House, 9191 S. Polk St., Dallas between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday – Saturday.
- Dallas College-Eastfield Campus, 3737 Motley Dr., Mesquite, Dallas between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday – Saturday.
- New Parkland Hospital, 5200 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas, between 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday or between 7 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.