Counties prepare to vaccinate young children

In a key milestone for pandemic recovery, the Food and Drug Administration on Friday gave emergency use authorization to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. As the country awaits imminent approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California’s counties have shifted into high gear.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer expects pediatric shots to be available late this week. All of L.A. County’s vaccine sites will be offering vaccines to the 5-11 age group along with many pharmacies. A map of locations offering pediatric vaccines in L.A. County will be posted to the health department's website.

Santa Clara County health officials said vaccines would be available by Wednesday or Thursday at the very earliest.

Sacramento County is leaving the job up to pediatricians’ offices — at least initially. Immunization program manager Rachel Allen said county clinics may roll out pediatric vaccines the week of Nov. 8, but she recommended parents reach out to their children's doctors.

School districts have an important role to play in the distribution of the vaccine as well. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that 100 Bay Area schools will host vaccine drives for the 5-11 age group.

There are around 3.5 million children ages 5-11 in California. Although they must be vaccinated to attend school, that requirement will not take effect until the vaccine receives full FDA authorization. There are still a number of questions about how the mandate will work in practice.

California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly has said 1.2 million doses of the vaccine will be available for young children in the first week of eligibility. As with older patients, the Pfizer vaccine will be administered to children in two doses three weeks apart. The dosage is lower at 10 micrograms as opposed to 30 micrograms.

Although children are at much lower risk of complications from COVID-19, experts say the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks even for this age group.

Read more about the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine here.


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