The pool of those ineligible for a COVID-19 vaccine continues to shrink after federal and state governments added 12- to 15-year-olds to the approved list.

The addition of this age group opens up the possibility of a summer playing with friends, sports with less worry and in-person school come fall. This is the youngest cohort made eligible and brings with it a different set of needs and challenges.

“This will allow more teens to gather safely with their friends and family, return to sporting and social activities. These are not only critical for their mental health well-being and development; they are activities we know they want to do so badly and they want to stay healthy while they do it,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, Public Health – Seattle & King County’s health officer, said during a Wednesday news briefing.

The emergency approval of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine makes about 378,000 more people eligible in the state. There were some 650,000 Pfizer doses available at pharmacies, health clinics and hospitals throughout Washington this week, said Michele Roberts, the state’s acting assistant secretary of health in charge of the vaccine rollout.

Activating 12- to 15-year-olds to be vaccinated against COVID-19 does pose questions for families and for providers administering shots. We answer some of those questions in this week’s FAQ Friday.

Do children and teenagers need parental or guardian consent to be vaccinated?

People younger than 18 generally need to have consent from either their guardian or parent before they can be vaccinated, just like with other medical procedures and vaccinations.

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The state Department of Health suggests parents contact the vaccine provider to find out how consent needs to be given because it can vary.

“Some will take written consent, some require in-person consent, and others will take consent over the phone,” DOH spokesperson Shelby Anderson wrote in an email.

Public Health – Seattle & King County vaccination sites accept a written consent form for minors; verbal consent by phone or a written note from an authorized adult also works.

There are some instances under the Mature Minor Rule where a person younger than 18 can give consent. For this to happen a provider needs to, in part, determine if a teenager has the capacity to understand the health care they are seeking and is matured to the point where they can make their own health decisions.

Will your child need to go through their primary care provider or can they be vaccinated at a city, county or state-run vaccination site?

Younger teens can get vaccinated wherever vaccines are given. But, that doesn’t mean they necessarily should because this age group has different needs and challenges compared to other groups.

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is a chance for these kids to get caught up on any other vaccinations and health care needs that have been put off because of the pandemic, said Dr. Chris Spitters, Snohomish Health District’s health officer.

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“The place of choice if your child’s health care provider has vaccine is to go there so that they can get all of their other preventive health maintenance needs addressed,” he said.

Public Health is vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds at the locations it runs and is holding some family events at its Kent ShoWare Center vaccination site aimed at getting their teens vaccinated.

  • Vax to the Future is happening from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
  • Family Pfizer Day takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Seattle’s K-8, middle and high schools will host vaccine clinics for students age 12 and older starting Monday.

Students need a signed parental consent form and must complete a health screening, the school district said. In-person learning students who are eligible and have an approved consent form will be dismissed for the clinic; details of the in-person vaccination schedule will be sent to families. Remote-learning students may arrive at the clinics, which don’t require appointments, at any time during the scheduled time block for their school. The full list of each school’s clinic time is available on the Seattle Public Schools website.

Seattle Times staff reporters Evan Bush and Paige Cornwell contributed to this report.

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