COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5-11 could arrive next month

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School safety is again in focus.

Children in the U.S. ages 5 to 11 could get a COVID-19 vaccine in a matter of weeks.

“If all goes well, and we get the regulatory approval and the recommendation from the CDC, it’s entirely possible if not very likely that vaccines will be available for children from 5 to 11 within the first week or two of November,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC News on Sunday.

This week, a vaccine advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration met to discuss approving a lower-dose version of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in elementary school-age kids. After that, the FDA will decide if the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks of COVID-19. An advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will then meet Nov. 2-3 before the CDC issues its own recommendations.

On Friday, the FDA released its analysis of Pfizer trial data. It showed the company’s mRNA-based shots “appeared highly effective at preventing symptomatic infection of COVID-19” in 5-to-11-year-olds and did not cause any unexpected safety issues, according to the Associated Press. This week, Moderna reported its vaccine produced a strong immune response in younger children during trials but it has yet to seek FDA approval for it.

On Oct. 20, the Biden Administration unveiled its plans for getting vaccines to the estimated 28 million 5-to-11-year-olds in the U.S. That includes shipping millions of doses and kid-size needles for doctor’s offices, hospitals, pharmacies, and school and community-based clinics. The shot for younger kids is a smaller dose and is packaged in special orange-capped vials to distinguish them from the adult dose.

Local education officials respond

“While we will continue to assist the OC Health Care Agency (OCHCA) with its efforts to share information about voluntary COVID-19 vaccinations, we are not hosting school-based vaccination clinics for students or community members,” Orange County Superintendent Al Mijares said in an Oct. 21 post on the OC Department of Education (OCDE) website.

“For families who choose to get their children vaccinated, we believe the safest manner is through licensed and fully-staffed facilities. Above all, we recognize that families are responsible for making important health care decisions on behalf of their children with guidance from licensed medical professionals,” Mijares said.

In the past, OCDE partnered with OCHCA and local school districts to establish on-campus vaccination clinics for staff. More than 20,000 doses were given to school employees seeking the shot. But with schools open full-time across the county, OCDE said it “will defer to local health officials and medical providers to host COVID-19 vaccination clinics for children and families.”

Los Alamitos Unified School District Supt. Andrew Pulver said last week that the district has not set any plans yet in the effort to vaccinate younger children.

Los Alamitos USD has nine campuses including six elementary schools.

“We may look to partner with a vaccine clinic or provider as more information becomes available (i.e. Albertsons/Vons, CVS or some other agency) as I know that was an option shared last spring,” Dr. Pulver wrote in an email but added: “We will wait and see what options are available. Any such partnership would be outside of school hours and would require parents/guardians to initiate.”

California is mandating all K-12 students get inoculated once the COVID-19 vaccines receive full FDA approval for their age groups. So far, the Pfizer vaccine has full approval for people 16 and older.  The deadline to get vaccinated for 7th-12th graders could be July 1, 2022, according to the Governor’s office.

According to the CDC, children are at lower risk for severe complications from COVID-19 but they can become ill and infect others. Around 35,000 children in Orange County, from newborns to 17 year-olds, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and two have died from it, according to OCHCA.

There are roughly 455,000 elementary school aged children, ages 5-11, in the county.

COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5-11 could arrive next month