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Underaged children are getting COVID-19 shots, city leaders say

Despite lacking FDA approval, a University Health administrator says more parents are trying to secure a coronavirus vaccine for their babies, toddlers and teens.

SAN ANTONIO — Some San Antonio vaccine providers have given shots to children under 16 who are ineligible for a dose, assistant Metro Health Director Dr. Anita Kurian confirmed Thursday. 

The state says 278 people in Bexar Country have secured a vaccine without providing an age. Kurian says some are probably children. 

"We have seen providers inadvertently administering vaccines to those that are under 16 years of age," Kurian said. 

The federal government has not approved any vaccine for children under 16. Only Pfizer's chemical is allowed for 16- and 17-year-olds. 

Pfizer says its vaccine has so far been 100% effective in preventing symptomatic cases among kids ages 12 to 15. Early trial results are promising, but providers cannot legally offer a vaccine to younger children until the Food and Drug Administration approves its use. 

University Health administrator Bill Phillips runs the vaccine drive at Wonderland of the Americas mall. He says his team has seen a "very large increase" in parents trying to sign up underaged children for a shot. 

Phillips's team is now combing through online appointments each day to cancel time slots reserved for children who are not old enough for the vaccine. 

"We've seen babies show up on our appointed list. We've seen very young ages, from months old to a couple years old," he said. "These appointments are being made that we have to stop." 

Phillips says University Health has taped the number "2005" on vaccine schedulers' computers, a reminder that some children born during that year are not yet allowed to be vaccinated. 

"There is some confusion for the general public on what can happen and what can't," he said, referencing new studies like Pfizer's. 

"The parents get vaccinated," Phillips continued. "They feel safer and they have some protection. Man, it's in your human nature, right? 'I've got to protect my kids. I've got to protect my kids.'"

Kurian says people seeking a vaccine do not have to show an ID at the Alamodome, for example. Shot-seekers aren't required to provide a birthday when they sign up for a vaccine there, either. 

"Should it be made a requirement? I think yes," Kurian said. "To minimize the number of adverse events, it's probably a good idea to make it a requirement."

Kurian said Metro Health providers do not offer the vaccine to children who are clearly underaged, but added there may be some teenagers who manage to secure a shot because they look older. 

She says vaccine providers will attempt to secure date-of-birth information from people who omitted the date on their registration, but they will not turn people away if they cannot determine a date. 

Some vaccine-seekers give different birthdays each time they're asked, she said. 

"We make sure we take every precaution once something like that comes to our attention," she said, adding staff watch those people for a longer amount of time after they've been vaccinated. 

Dr. Tess Barton, a pediatrician at UT Health San Antonio, says parents who want their children vaccinated now should consider enrolling their kids in a clinical trial. 

"Currently, both Tekton and Clinical Trials of Texas are conducting COVID vaccine trials with children," Barton said. "UT Health San Antonio has submitted to be included in a trial, but it has not started yet." 

Otherwise, Phillips says, parents should be patient. 

"Let these researchers and their approvals come out and then they will be able to get their children vaccinated at the appropriate time."