As summer looms, 12-to-15 vax efforts lag in big cities

Fall River, New Bedford under 20%, Boston, Worcester under 30%

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Nearly half of 12-to-15-year-olds in the City of Framingham have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine thanks, in part, to the efforts of Nicole Doak, founder of the Framingham Coronavirus Community Outreach Group. Doak has been setting up clinics in her city and surrounding towns, lately, to help vaccinate the youngest eligible demographic.

“This weekend we have our second dose clinic at Woodrow Wilson School in Framingham,” Doak said. “It’s a second dose clinic, but if you still need your first dose you still can come to the clinic. We’ll have Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson and Johnson.”

Sunday, the group will hold a similar clinic at Natick High School.

At this point, only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for use in 12-to-15-year-olds, though Moderna is seeking approval for its vaccine in the age group.

Doak said, once school lets out, her group will be looking for other opportunities to vaccinate not just adolescents but whole families. However, she said a lot of the clinics would be winding down once demand goes away, which is somewhat to be expected in summer.

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The worry is that will leave many adolescents unvaccinated before the new school year starts in September.

“Right now, we make it as accessible and easy as we possibly can,” Doak said.

“But we don’t know how long that’s going to last. So if you see an available clinic near you, now’s the time to go.”

While Framingham and Natick are doing well with vaccinating 12-to-15-year-olds, some Massachusetts communities, especially the largest cities, are not.

Brockton, Fall River, New Bedford and Springfield have immunized fewer than 20% of 12-to-15-year-olds, Boston and Worcester less than 30%.

“If we don’t immunize this population, we’re never going to get to sort of whatever that magic number is, whether it’s 70%, 75%, 80% of the total population,” said Dr. Lloyd Fisher, president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Fisher worries that, with school out, immunization efforts may very well lag.

“It’s going to be hard to capture that population if we don’t have these school clinics,” Fisher said. “Then the parents are going to need to bring their child to one of the walk-in clinics, whether it’s a retail pharmacy or some of the other facilities that do exist.”

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Perhaps by next month, pediatricians will have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. But that will mean two appointments at a time of year when many children need to see the doctor.

And with three to four weeks needed between the first and second doses – assuming Moderna’s vaccine gets approval for use in the age group – and summer always going by too fast, it’s easy to see how some families might run out of time to vaccinate by September.

Doak’s advice: get it done now.

“If you need your first dose, if you need your second dose,” Doak said. “Even if you need your second dose and you received your first dose elsewhere, we will vaccinate you. Walk-ups are always welcome.”

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