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Talk To Us: COVID Questions

BPR is answering listener queries about the Coronavirus in a new segment –Talk to Us: COVID Questions.  BPR’s Helen Chickering brings us this week’s answer.   

This week's question comes from Aaron Powell of Transylvania County.

“I'm 16, and want to get a Pfizer vaccine. Do you have any tips on how to find it in Western North Carolina. And are there any special considerations for teenagers? Do I need a parent or guardian to come with me?

Good questions. Good question,  We checked with Dr. Rebecca Putnam, Medical Director of the Acute Care Clinic at Mahec at Mountain Area Health and Education Center, (MAHEC) in Asheville.  

“ Let me start off by saying, I am so excited to see so many teens eager to do their part and the pandemic by getting vaccinated,” says Dr. Putnam.  “Currently only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for 16 and 17 year olds and can be found through your local health department, many larger pharmacies, and at mass vaccination

Credit MAHEC
Dr. Rebecca Putnam, Medical Director of the Acute Care Clinic at MAHEC

site.  If you're having trouble finding a shot, your family doctor or pediatrician should be able to steer you in the right direction.”

Finding the Pfizer vaccine:  “The MAHEC-UNCA clinic on the campus of UNC Asheville has Pfizer this week on Friday, and next week on Saturday, we do require parental consent, and that can be done either in person at the clinic  or verbally via a phone call before the teen is administered the vaccine.

Along with the UNC MAHEC clinic,  the Macon County Health Department is hosting a vaccine clinic for teens on Saturday, April 23.   You can also search for the Pfizer vaccine in WNC atmyspot.nc.gov.

A footnote: North Carolina state law allows teenagers to give consent on their own for the COVID vaccine. However, each vaccine provider may have different requirements. So it's a good idea to check.

Do you have a COVID vaccine question you'd like answered record a voice memo and send it to voices@bpr.org or use the talk to us feature on the free BPR mobile app. I'm Helen Chickering BPR news.

More from NCDHHS about vaccines and teen consent:

Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized by the FDA for 16- and 17-year-olds.  The clinical trial data that were used when Pfizer applied for their current Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) included 16- and 17-year-olds.  

Informed consent for medical treatment must be obtained prior to anyone being vaccinated with any of the COVID-19 vaccines. That consent can be verbal, but a provider may choose to have patients provide written consent for vaccines per their facility policy. For each COVID-19 vaccine authorized under an EUA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that vaccine recipients or their caregivers are provided with vaccine-specific information consistent with the EUA to help make an informed decision about vaccination.

Parents can provide consent for COVID-19 vaccination for teenagers who are 16 or 17 years old, or teenagers can consent for themselves, pursuant to NC General Statute 90-21.5, if they have the ability to understand and make decisions about their health. As part of normal development, most children are able to understand and make decisions about their health some point before the age of 18. There is no one age at which this always occurs; it varies from child to child. Vaccinating individuals under 18 years of age is covered in the “Consent for Vaccination” section (pg. 41) of the COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Guidance. Specifically, it states:

Individuals under 18 years of age
NC General Statute 90-21.5 gives minors the legal authority to consent for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of reportable communicable disease and COVID-19 is a reportable disease under NCGS 130A-135 pursuant to rules of the Public Health Commission (10A NCAC 41A .0101 .0107). Therefore, minors with decisional capacity may consent for COVID-19 vaccination under G.S. 90-21.5.  Decisional capacity is a person’s ability to understand his or her health status and health care needs and options, and to make a decision about them.  Please note that under HIPAA, if the minor alone consents, the minor also controls access to their health information

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.
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