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Searching for Pfizer: Teens face challenge in securing specific vaccine in Washington

Teens 16 and 17 years old are currently authorized to get the Pfizer vaccine only. Washington state parents and teens need to take some extra steps to find one.

SEATTLE — Tracking down a specific COVID-19 vaccine will become a growing need among teenagers who will become eligible in the coming weeks.

Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only one that is authorized for 16- and 17-year-olds. Adults 18 and older can get the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well as the Pfizer vaccine.

Beth Goldberg, a Seattle mother of a 16-year-old son, foresees a difficult process when it comes time to schedule his appointment starting April 15, when everyone 16 and older will be eligible for the vaccine in Washington.

She has already checked the state-run vaccine locator available to schedule a vaccine appointment.

"The Washington state-specific ones don't indicate what vaccine type is available," Goldberg said.

Choosing a specific vaccine has not been recommended for adults, as all three options in the U.S. are safe and effective, according to public health officials.

"The perfect vaccine is the one that is given or available to you," Washington Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said in a briefing last week.

The Washington Department of Health recommends using its vaccine finder as a starting point to find the nearest location and from there, search for a vaccine by type on the provider's website or listing.

It's possible vaccine searchers will need to contact the provider directly.

"Things are changing minute-by-minute but I'm just looking ahead a little bit and seeing a potential for a little bit of chaos," Goldberg said.

Goldberg said she managed to find a different vaccine finder tool, vaccinefinder.org, which looks up vaccine availability nationwide and allows searching for a specific vaccine.

Vaccinefinder.org is posted on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.