State officials are gearing up for the next round of Covid-19 vaccinations, this time for younger children.
About 330,000 children aged 5 to 11 in Oregon will be eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is currently under review by federal authorities.
On Tuesday, a federal Food and Drug Administration committee recommended the vaccine. The FDA is expected to approve it for emergency use in the next few days.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also needs to agree, and the drug has to pass muster with the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup for it to be used in Oregon.
Oregon officials, however, are not waiting for that process to finish. They’ve already put in orders for the vaccine with the CDC.
“We are participating in the CDC process to file pre-orders so that we can get vaccine positioned in the state even before vaccinations are authorized to begin,” said Dr. Kristen Dillon, a family physician and senior advisor for the Covid response and recovery unit at the Oregon Health Authority.
They expect providers to be able to start giving shots by Nov. 7.
The state plans to distribute vaccines to pediatric clinics, family medicine clinics, urgent care centers, public health clinics, school-based health centers, rural health centers and tribal clinics.
“We’re anticipating very broad availability at a lot of the places where families and kids normally get their care that they know and trust,” Dillon said. “Our goal is to supply each of those sites with about a three-week supply.”
The federal government initially has allocated 120,000 doses for the health authority and 60,000 to pharmacies, which will also be giving shots to children.
“That’s about half of all the doses we think we’re going to need for the next three or four months,” Dillon said.
She said state officials are paying special attention to equity. Racial and ethnic minorities were the hardest hit by the pandemic and often had difficulty getting to mass vaccination sites.
Information will be available in multiple languages, and the health authority plans to target young people and racial and ethnic minorities in its social media posts. It will also prioritize getting vaccines to clinics that serve Blacks and other people of color, Dillon said.
“Wherever possible with any of these community-based sites or special events, we are locating them in or near neighborhoods of people who had a hard time accessing vaccine earlier in the year,” Dillon said.
State data show that that vaccination rates for Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Alaskan natives are lower than that for whites.
Dillon said the Oregon Health Authority hopes the vaccination rate among younger children will exceed that for 12 and 17 year olds. Pfizer’s vaccine for that age group was approved for emergency use by the FDA in May. Now more than 60% of 11- to 17-year-olds are vaccinated against Covid-19.
“We know from national and some state work that about a third of parents are quite eager to get their children vaccinated,” Dillon said. “We just want to make it super easy for them.”
More than 100 clinics around the state have already requested doses, and Dillon expects that number to double or more. About 500 sites gave shots to adolescents.
The dose for children ages 5 to 11 is one-third of the strength of Pfizer’s dose for older children. The younger children also will get two shots three weeks apart.
Experts hope the extra week will lessen the risk of young children developing inflammation of the heart muscle, or myocarditis. That side effect was rare but some young men and teens did develop myocarditis after the Pfizer vaccine.
To sign up, parents should talk to their pediatrician or family provider or sign up with the state.
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