Face masks. Photo: Chas Hundley

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, known as ACIP, voted unanimously to recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech for emergency use in people ages 12 - 15 years of age in the U.S., just after 12 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. 

The move means that the previous age range for the vaccine — 16 and up — will move to 12 and up for the Pfizer vaccine for most of the U.S. population.

In Oregon and several other states, the vaccine has yet to be approved by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup (WSSSRW) — a consortium of health professionals from Oregon, Washington, California, and Nevada — which was said earlier this week by the OHA that the group planned to meet sometime Wednesday to review the data. 

A spokesperson for the Oregon Health Authority said that a decision by the workgroup could come as early as this week. 

The Washington Department of Health noted that the meeting was scheduled for Wednesday evening, which could possibly mean that vaccinations of ages 12 - 15 could begin Thursday.

The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines remain approved only for those age 18 and older. 

The Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in those ages 12 - 15 on Monday, May 10. 

On Tuesday May 11, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced that much of the state’s restrictions on gatherings, people in food establishments and gyms, and other restrictions in place to stem the spread of COVID-19 would be lifted when 70% of those ages 16 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

The governor also announced that counties that reach a 65% first-dose vaccine threshold for the same age group and submit a plan to the state “close equity gaps in vaccination,” will be able to apply to move to the Lower Risk level beginning on May 21 on a weekly basis, according to a press release from Brown’s office. 

Washington County is currently at the “High Risk” level, which restricts capacity at restaurants, gyms, stores, and other businesses. 

As of May 10, the most recently available data from the Oregon Health Authority, 61.1% of Washington County residents ages 16 and older have received at least one dose. Statewide, 56.6% of that age range has received at least one dose. 

Asked if the possibility of new age ranges approved for the vaccine would change the targets the state is trying to meet, the answer was that vaccination rates for those under 16 would not impact the state’s 70% or 65% thresholds for the state and counties.

“It will not be changed when 12-15 are eligible,” said Jonathan Modie, a spokesperson for the Oregon Health Authority in an email to this newspaper. He added that the numbers the state announced Tuesday are in line with a federal goal as well. 

To qualify for dropping two levels from “High Risk” to “Lower Risk,” 19,867 Washington County residents would have to get a vaccine this week, according to Washington County. 

“Of course, we are aiming for much higher than 65%, but it's a start,” the county said in a social media post Wednesday morning. 

More information about finding a vaccine in Washington County is available at the Washington County Health and Human Services website or by dialing 211. 

Portland’s Oregon Convention Center (777 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard), retrofitted into a streamlined vaccine facility, is offering walk-in vaccines in May, but will cease offering first doses after May, allowing only second doses to recipients in June, and closing later that same month. More information for the Oregon Convention Center vaccine can be found at all4oregon.org.