Teenagers ages 16 and 17 can now be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Santa Cruz County after the Mariposa Community Health Center received a shipment of Pfizer-made vaccines – the only vaccine approved for that age group.

Dr. Eladio Pereira, chief medical officer at MCHC, said the health center had begun receiving Pfizer doses last week and this week and vaccinated “a few” teenagers on Monday. But the main inoculation event will be held over two days – Saturday, April 24 and Monday, April 26 – at the City of Nogales Recreation Center.

Pereira said they were expecting a total of around 1,600 or 1,700 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine – like the Moderna vaccine, it’s a two-shot sequence – and all of them would be reserved for eligible minors.

“Because at the moment, there is no other option for the 16- and 17-year-olds,” he said.

There will likely be vaccines left over following the two-day event, and at that point, the extras will be made available for adults, Pereira said – unless the FDA grants Pfizer a pending emergency use authorization to give the shot to children ages 12 to 15.

“If that’s the case, then we need to stay with the children, because there’s no other vaccine available for children,” he said.

The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at a far lower temperature than the vaccines made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. But MCHC is able to administer it because it purchased a special freezer later last year that can provide the approximately minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit) conditions required for storage.

Another difference between the Pfizer and Moderna two-dose vaccines is that the second Pfizer dose is administered three weeks after the first, while the Moderna shots are given four weeks apart.

“So we’ll vaccinate this group Saturday and Monday and then we’ll do it all over again three weeks later,” Pereira said.

The county has been working with local schools to get the word out about the upcoming vaccine events. Parents can also request information at (520) 375-7626.

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