Children ages 5 to 11 may be able to get vaccinated as soon as next week in Santa Clara County, pending final emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Wednesday, county vaccine officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said 55,000 doses of pediatric Pfizer vaccine are poised to arrive next week — enough to vaccinate a third of that age group in the county.
An FDA advisory committee Tuesday voted 17-0 to recommend the pediatric Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 — the agency is expected to approve the EUA in the coming days. Both the CDC advisory committee and director are poised to recommend and approve the Pfizer vaccine by Nov. 2 or 3, which means this age group could become eligible on Nov. 3 or 4.
The vaccination process for children will be very similar to that of adults, with two doses administered doses 21 days apart and full inoculation reached two weeks after the second dose.
The specialized dose for children that comes in orange vials is about a third of what adults receive and is made of a slightly different formula.
Children can get vaccinated at health care providers, community clinics and pharmacies. Fenstersheib said the county is also working with schools to open on-campus clinics.
He said vaccination status will not immediately mean children will be able to remove their masks at school.
“It’s an extra layer of safety, but for the time being their masks will stay on.”
But, the mask mandate will be lifted if and when the county reaches full vaccination for 80 percent of its total population.
For the county to reach that threshold, 55 percent of youth 5 to 11 years old will need to get inoculated, Fenstersheib said.
“We hope that all of the kids will get a vaccine, not just the minimum number,”
As vaccinations roll out for younger children, Fenstersheib said health officials will get a better sense of how vaccine hesitancy is impacting the county, adding:
“There definitely will be some hesitancy. So, I think that we just have to make sure that all the medical community will provide all those answers.”
He emphasized that the vaccine is safe and 90 percent effective at preventing symptomatic disease in children. Side effects were observed, “but usually very mild with pain in the arm” or fatigue, the vaccine officer said.
“It should be noted though, that during this pandemic, children have not been spared from getting infected by Covid-19.”
In the U.S., 1.9 million children, or a little over 2 percent of the country’s youth, have been infected with Covid. About 8,300 children were hospitalized, with a third of those requiring intensive care, Fenstersheib said.
Covid cases in the county have been relatively stagnant with a 7-day rolling average of 138 cases per day, according to the county’s data dashboard. According to the dashboard, 19.5 percent of the county’s cases are among people ages 19 and younger.
Fenstersheib anticipates that new cases will remain low, but he warns of a possible winter surge.
“It’s hard to say right now. If people continue to be vigilant that would be helpful but going inside and not being outside as much … may cause infections.”
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