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News | May 24, 2021

TRICARE Beneficiaries Ages 12 and Older Now Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine

By TRICARE Communications

On May 10, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded its emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech (Pfizer) COVID-19 vaccine. This means children ages 12-15 are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. It’s the latest of several crucial steps taken by the federal government to end the pandemic.
 
“We’re continuing to see major progress being made against COVID-19,” said Dr. John Kugler, chief of the Clinical Support Division at the Defense Health Agency. “This expanded vaccine eligibility for pre-teens and teens will protect their health and reduce the spread of the virus to those who may be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. This will also help adolescents more safely resume activities, such as in-person classes and after school or summer programs and activities.”
 
Why are 12-15 year olds now approved to get the vaccine?
If you’re a parent with a child who’s now eligible for the vaccine, you may have questions about safety. The FDA has conducted a thorough review of the Pfizer vaccine and determined that its potential benefits outweigh potential risks in those 12 years of age and older. According to the FDA evaluation, clinical trials involving 12-15 year olds showed 100% effectiveness, strong antibody responses, and no serious side effects. Based on this FDA data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone age 12 and older get vaccinated.
 
Is the COVID-19 vaccine appointment process the same for children?
Yes. The Department of Defense (DoD) has already begun administering doses to TRICARE beneficiaries who are 12-15 years old. All eligible and authorized TRICARE beneficiaries and DoD individuals can make a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at any military hospital, clinic, or DoD vaccination site. Other options may include:  
Parents should contact their local vaccination sites to make sure the Pfizer vaccine is available. Need help finding clinics, pharmacies, or other locations outside of the DoD? Check out the CDC Vaccine Finder.
 
If your child receives the vaccine outside of the DoD, let his or her primary care manager know and provide them a copy of the vaccine card so that this health record is on file. The COVID-19 vaccine itself is free. However, there may be a cost based on your child’s health plan for an office visit with a provider, or if your child needs follow-on care.
 
What do I need to know after my child gets the COVID-19 vaccine?
The CDC considers your child to be fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Like adults, it’s safe for children to resume certain activities after building protection against the virus. Keep in mind, your child may experience side effects 1-2 days after getting the shot. This may be pain or swelling in the arm where he or she received the shot. Other side effects may include tiredness, fever, headache, muscle pain, or chills. These are normal signs that your child’s body is building protection against the virus. They should go away after a few days. You can find tips on how to reduce discomfort on the CDC website.
 
Remember, the Pfizer vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine approved for 12-15 year olds as of now. If you have questions or concerns about this vaccine, you should discuss them with your medical provider.
 
Find TRICARE COVID-19 resources online, and keep up with vaccine updates through TRICARE’s “Got Your 6” video series. Take command of your family’s health, and make sure they get the COVID-19 vaccine.
 
Sign up for email alerts, and keep up with TRICARE and COVID-19 updates.

At the time of posting, this information is current. Visit www.cdc.gov or TRICARE COVID Guidance for the most current COVID-19 information.
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Candida Ferguson, a general surgeon at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, talks with a patient about colorectal cancer screening. The Defense Health Agency established new age recommendations for screenings. Regular screening with a stool test, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy, beginning at age 45, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer and finding it early.

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