Late Tuesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky gave the final federal approval to roll out Covid vaccinations to Americans between the ages of 5 and 11, according to AP. Those ages 12 and up are already eligible.
Millions of smaller, kid-sized doses had already been shipped across the country in anticipation of approval. While the pediatric shots are a lower dosage than the adult vaccine, the doses must be given on the same schedule — two shots administered 21 days apart. Los Angles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted today that children must have a signed consent form from an adult to receive the shot. Some vaccination sites require them to be accompanied by an adult, she said.
California officials last week announced plans to vaccinate 3.5 million kids ages 5-11 against Covid as soon as Thursday. The state’s director of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said at a news conference that the state expects to have 1.2 million doses on hand as it begins to inoculate pre-teens.
While federal approval has been issued, California has its own vetting process through the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which consists of public health experts from California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington who analyzing federal findings for those states. Their consideration usually takes 24-48 hours, after which time Ghaly and other state health officials will make the final determination on the administration of the vaccine to pre-teens. Given the urgency around vaccination expressed by health officials, it’s a fair bet Ghaly’s sign off will come on Thursday. Ferrer indicated that L.A. County could be ready to go as soon as Wednesday afternoon, if state approval had been given by then.
L.A. County has 900,000 children between the ages of 5 and 11 who will likely become newly eligible for vaccination this week, according the the Department of Public Health. The county expects to get nearly 300,000 doses as part of its first three waves of vaccine supply by the end of this week; the first pediatric doses arrived today with additional doses scheduled to arrive later this week. L.A. officials do not anticipate scarcity, and expect there will be ample vaccine to meet demand. Nationwide, according to AP, there are 28 million Americans in the 5-11 age group.
The pediatric shots will be offered under an emergency use authorization, the same authorization given to the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, and to the Pfizer vaccine for people aged 12-15. Pfizer’s vaccine has full federal approval for people aged 16 and up.
According to Ferrer, there have been more than 79,000 Covid cases during the pandemic among children aged 5-11 in the county, and one fatality. About 37,000 cases have occurred in kids up to age 4, also with one death, and more than 89,000 cases in those aged 12-17, with five deaths.
“Over the week ending Oct. 10, 12% of L.A. County cases were in children aged 5-11, and children in this age group comprise 9% of the county’s population,” Ferrer said last week.
There is a network of nearly 900 providers countywide prepared to provide vaccines to children this week. County mobile vaccination teams will work to supplement vaccinations offered by existing providers. Over the course of the month of November, vaccines for children will be also offered at 480 school-based events with a focus on schools in high-need areas.
Of residents aged 12 and older, 72% are fully vaccinated, according to the county. Among the county’s overall population of 10.3 million people, including those under age 12 who aren’t yet eligible for the shots, 61% are fully vaccinated.
City News Service contributed to this report.