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DHEC says vaccines in 5-11 age group could start by Nov. 4

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 6:20 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The federal government is anticipating 28 million more children in the U.S. will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks.

The process to authorize the Pfizer shot for children aged 5 to 11 starts next Tuesday when a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel will meet to determine if it will recommend the vaccine’s use.

But ahead of that meeting, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is already preparing for the rollout.

“While it certainly is an undertaking, it is a much smaller one than what we faced for the initial vaccine rollout for adults,” DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler said.

Starting Wednesday, states can reserve doses of the COVID vaccine for the younger pediatric age group in anticipation of the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorizing its use in the coming weeks.

With the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices scheduled to meet Nov. 2 and 3 to make a recommendation to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who will ultimately need to sign off on the shots before they can be administered, Traxler said the earliest they would be able to vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds is Nov. 4.

She said they expect to have doses available by then.

“Between the first and fifth of November, we anticipate in the state, we could receive up to 152,000 doses,” Traxler said.

The CDC recently released a guide for health departments and pediatricians to begin planning for the rollout now.

It explains the vaccine for children younger than 12 will have different packaging as the shots for older kids and adults, as a smaller dose is expected to be authorized for them.

“The reason it’s packaged differently is to make certain that people are getting the right one, is to make it look different than the ‘big kid dose,’ so to say, so if one has an orange cap and one has a purple cap, it’s a lot harder to confuse those, for example,” Traxler said.

As they await those doses — and the data about them as well, to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective for younger children — Dr. Elizabeth Mack, the chief of pediatric critical care for MUSC Children’s Health, said pediatricians are talking a lot with families about the vaccine.

“Basically promoting vaccine confidence amongst those ages because right now, we’re still sitting at only about 30% of our 12- to 19-year-olds being vaccinated in the state,” she said.

Mack said they have seen the shot’s effectiveness at work in their hospital.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic here at MUSC Children’s Health, we’ve had zero children admitted with COVID-19 or with MIS-C who have been fully vaccinated, so we know that the vaccine works,” she said. “It does what it’s supposed to do.”

DHEC recommends parents talk with their child’s pediatrician if they have questions about the vaccine.

But Traxler advises they wait if they have questions about when their pediatrician’s office will receive its doses or how many it will get because providers do not have that information at this point.

The federal government reports supply will not be an issue, saying it has purchased enough doses to be prepared for the rollout of the vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds.

“You may still have to wait a little bit,” Traxler said. “We can’t vaccinate every 5- to 11-year-old in the state on day one, but it should not be a long wait.”

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