MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Floridians ages 16-21 with medical conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 can sign up to get vaccines at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital starting next week, the Miami-Dade facility announced Friday.
Doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be available to people of that age who are “currently under the care of physicians or specialists for medical conditions identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as posing an increased risk for severe illness associated with COVID-19,” Nicklaus said in a news release.
Appointment requests can be submitted at Nicklauschildrens.org/Covid19Vaccine beginning Monday, March 8.
Candidates will need to provide the Florida COVID-19 Determination of Extreme Vulnerability form completed by their doctor.
The hospital says it has already vaccinated 500 eligible patients “through outreach to other area hospitals and health systems, pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists in Florida that resulted in hundreds of referrals for vaccine appointments.”
Dr. Marcos Mestre, Nicklaus’ chief medical officer, says that of the 700+ doses they’ve given to those patients “we haven’t seen any complications of it.”
The expansion to allow online signups from the public comes after the hospital recently received an additional allotment of the Pfizer shots.
“While most children are only mildly affected by COVID-19, those with complex conditions may be at risk of severe illness if they contract the virus,” Nicklaus Children’s Health System President and CEO Matthew A. Love said in a statement. “We are honored to be able to offer the vaccine to support the care of vulnerable children in Florida.”
Conditions that increase risk, as identified by the CDC, include asthma (moderate to severe), cancer, cerebrovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, diabetes (type 1 or 2), Down syndrome, heart conditions, hypertension, immunocompromised conditions, liver disease, neurologic conditions, obesity, pulmonary fibrosis, sickle cell disease or thalassemia.
Diego Diaz, 18, has cystic fibrosis and just got his second dose earlier this week through Nicklaus.
“More than grateful,” he said. “I hope that other hospitals take note and start doing the same, because I really think that we should be prioritizing not just a certain age group but a demographic that’s mostly at risk.”
Diaz added: “It’s always a worry that maybe there’s somebody that’s next to you that has it, maybe somebody you pass by might have COVID, so it’s always scary to go outside.”
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for use by people 16 and older. (Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for 18+.)
There is limited data on how the vaccine affects the pediatric population, but Mestre said studies are ongoing for patients 12-16 years old and “hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have a vaccine available for them as well.”
Pfizer and Moderna expect to start studies on children 11 and younger later this year, as researchers further examine if the shots are safe for younger patients.
For more information on Nicklaus’ vaccine program, click here.