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Most kids now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Virus Outbreak Kids Vaccine
Jae C. Hong
Six-year-old Eric Aviles receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from pharmacist Sylvia Uong at a pediatric vaccine clinic for children ages 5 to 11 set up at Willard Intermediate School in Santa Ana, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021.

After months of testing and speculation, children ages 5-11 can begin getting vaccinated for COVID-19 this week.

“We had vaccine almost year ago now for adults; and we have taken the time to get this right for our children,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, appearing on the “CBS Morning Show.”

Federal health officials gave final approval last week to use the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for about 28 million kids in that age group.

“This is a child-size dose, it’s one-third the [adult] dose; we’ve done the clinical trials in children between the age of 5-11,” said Walensky. “We’ve done the incredible due-diligence to take the time to get it right.”

Almost 2 million children ages 5-11 have been infected with COVID-19 or with the Delta variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 8,300 have been hospitalized, with 94 deaths. The latter places the virus among the top 10 causes of death in that age group.

“Young people are not just smaller, older people, and with all vaccines we have different doses,” Walensky said. “So, what they’ve done in these clinical trials is to look at dose de-escalation — to make sure the younger children are getting the right dose — both to balance the effectiveness and to make sure there were no side effects. And they absolutely hit that ‘sweet spot’ with this dose.”

Federal health officials gave final approval on Nov. 2 for using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for about 28 million kids. The protocol is two shots, given 21 days apart.

The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County offers that, and continues to offer COVID-19 vaccines to adults, in its clinic at West Fairfield Drive in Pensacola.

“We are so excited to be able to provide vaccines for children 5-11 years old now in our clinic; and we’ll be offering those vaccines from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday,” said Dr. Vanessa Philips at Escambia DOH.

She adds that, contrary to some rumors, this is not a watered-down version of the adult vaccine.

“Pediatric doses are a little smaller than the adult doses, to accommodate for evenly,” said Phillips. “I hope and pray [for] a large turnout on Monday, but no matter the turnout, we are ready. The clinics are operational, and we have enough staff to accommodate.”

Although the patients change — from adults to children in this instance — the Health Department’s message remains the same.

“The vaccines are here; they’re safe, and they’re effective for every age group. This is the way we’re going to get back to normal,” Phillips said. “Right now, I’m not sure when we’re expecting more, but we have more than enough doses to accommodate a full rush for the next couple of months.”

And Phillips says the main protocol they continue to practice — now with the new eligibility— is also unchanged.

“I think our key measures were availability— we wanted to make sure that we removed any gaps that were there — or lessen those gaps where possible and provide an access,” Phillips said. “And that’s what we pride ourselves on. We are making sure that vaccine is available to whoever needs, whenever they want it.”

Questions can be directed to FDOH-Escambia’s COVID-19 phone line at 850-595-6500, option 6.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.