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A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expert said Wednesday that it’s OK to give the coronavirus vaccine alongside other vaccinations, a major boon for children and teenagers behind on their regular inoculations.

Doctors and other clinicians were previously advised to avoid giving coronavirus vaccine within two weeks of any other vaccine. But Dr. Kate Woodworth of the CDC’s birth defects division said Wednesday that advice has now changed, saying there is substantial data on the safety of the vaccines.

“Extensive experience with non-Covid-19 vaccines has demonstrated that immunogenicity,” or the ability of a vaccine to provoke an immune response, “and adverse event profiles are generally similar when vaccines are administered simultaneously as when they are administered alone,” Woodworth told a meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

She said the clinical considerations are being updated to say that Covid-19 and other vaccines can be administered “without regard to timing,” including on the same day.

The change is important because many children remain behind on their regular vaccinations, as the pandemic shut down many non-emergency medical checkups. The two-week delay threatened to add another hurdle to getting people protected against Covid-19 as well as other diseases such as influenza, tetanus and HPV.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also said Wednesday it supports giving routine childhood vaccines together with coronavirus vaccines.

After some discussion among ACIP members concerned people might not fully understand the advice, the CDC added some language to its guidance to make it clear that the agency doesn’t know whether people will be more likely to have a reaction if they get a Covid-19 vaccine close in time to other vaccines.

The announcement came shortly before the vaccine advisers voted unanimously to recommend use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in youths age 12 to 15. They voted 14-0 to recommend use of the vaccine, with one recusal.

“This is one more step to gaining immunity and bringing the pandemic closer to an end,” said Dr. José Romero, who chairs ACIP and who is also the secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health. “We still need to vaccinate the rest of the world, but we have made significant steps and are on the road.”

The recommendation comes a day after the US Food and Drug Administration decided to expand the emergency use authorization (EUA) of the Pfizer vaccine to people as young as 12. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky approved the recommendations Wednesday.

“Today, I adopted CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that endorsed the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and its use in 12- through 15-year-old adolescents,” Walensky said in a statement.

“CDC now recommends that this vaccine be used among this population, and providers may begin vaccinating them right away,” she added.

CARDIFF, WALES - DECEMBER 08: A member of staff poses with a phial of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination health centre on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. Wales joined the other UK nations in rolling out the covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday, a rare moment of coordination after months of disjointedness in the four nations' pandemic response. Wales introduced a 17-day "firebreak" lockdown in October and November to suppress the surge in covid-19 cases, but infections have continued to rise. (Photo by Justin Tallis/Pool/Getty Images)
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Though young people are less likely to be seriously affected by Covid-19, they can still be infected and spread it to others. The CDC estimates more than 22 million children ages 5 to 17 have been infected with coronavirus, CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver said Wednesday.

CVS announced Wednesday its pharmacies will begin administering Pfizer’s vaccine Thursday in more than 5,600 locations nationwide, according to a statement from the company.

With so many older people vaccinated, children and teens are starting to make up a larger proportion of coronavirus cases now than earlier in the epidemic.

“In April, 9% of Covid-19 cases were aged 12-17 years, which actually represents a larger proportion of cases than adults 65 and older,” Oliver told the ACIP meeting.

About 45% of adults in the United States are fully vaccinated, according to data from the CDC on Wednesday.

But in 15 states, more than half of adult residents are fully vaccinated. Those states are: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Mexico, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa.

California to effectively end mask mandate next month

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With more and more people becoming vaccinated, the plans for a return to normal are becoming clearer.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom will effectively end mask mandates next month when the state plans to fully reopen after more than a year of Covid-19 restrictions.

In an on-camera interview with KTTV Los Angeles reporter Elex Michaelson and posted on Twitter, the governor was asked, “Are we looking at masks after June 15?”

“No. Only in those settings that are indoor – only in those massively large settings where people around the world, not just around the country, are convening, and when people are mixing in real dense spaces,” Newsom replied. “Otherwise, we’ll make guidance recommendations, but no mandates and no restrictions on businesses large and small.”

California currently requires the use of masks in indoor settings outside of one’s home, including on public transportation, regardless of vaccination status. Fully vaccinated people, however, are not required to wear masks outdoors, except when attending crowded events.

Last month, state health officials announced the June 15 target date to fully reopen the state amid falling Covid-19 infection rates and low hospitalizations, shelving its color-coded tier system that dictates reopening by county based on infection rates.

California’s mask mandate, however, would remain in place at least “in the short run,” Newsom said at the time.

Spokespersons for the governor’s office and California Department of Public Health did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment Wednesday.

About 52% of California’s population has had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including 89% of those older than 65, according to CDC data. After a startling outbreak in December and January, the state has had a seven-day average of fewer than 2,000 new daily coronavirus cases for the past two weeks.

‘I can go out more instead of just staying home and doing nothing’

Though the CDC had yet to fully sign off on vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds, some locations began vaccinating the age group Tuesday.

Doctors already have the vaccine on hand, and the CDC’s approval is a foregone conclusion. This is an area of medical practice regulated by states, but because the vaccine is already authorized and in offices, there is little to stop medical professionals from exercising their own judgment.

Jacob Laney, 14, was in line at a Decatur, Georgia, vaccine site early Tuesday in hopes of getting the vaccine early.

“My friend got Covid and it looked really bad, and I just did not want to get it,” he told CNN. Once he gets both doses of Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine, “I think I’ll be less scared of getting it and less scared of having issues with Covid-19,” he said.

Cameron Carrion, a 14-year-old whose mother watched CNN’s interview with Jacob and then drove to the same vaccine site, said he felt good about getting the shot.

“I feel like it’s better that I got it because I can go out more instead of just staying home and doing nothing,” he said.

CNN’s Stella Chan, Naomi Thomas, Virginia Langmaid, Lauren Mascarenhas and Sarah Moon contributed to this report.