State health officials say Arizona is ready to provide the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to kids ages 5 to 11 — an age group that may be eligible to receive the vaccine within the next few weeks.
The Arizona Department of Health Services and local county health departments “have worked extensively to ensure capacity in Arizona for pediatric COVID-19 vaccination,” interim state Health Director Don Herrington wrote in a blog post this week.
That work has included recruiting additional pediatric providers to be vaccinators and working with schools and local health providers to identify “easily accessible locations” for vaccinations, and developing communication materials for health care providers and the public, Herrington wrote.
Various Arizona public health advocates have been putting pressure on the state Health Department in recent weeks about a plan for vaccinating kids ages 5 to 11. A coalition called Right 2 Safe Schools Arizona is crowdsourcing COVID-19 vaccine resources with a goal of removing barriers that some families may have in finding places for their younger children to get the vaccine.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently advised state and county health departments to get ready to vaccinate kids ages 5 through 11. That’s because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to review the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for kids in that age group on Oct. 26, followed by a Nov. 2-3 meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization.
If authorized, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds will be a dose and formula specifically for that age group, federal and state health officials say.
Herrington wrote that once the CDC signs off on the vaccine for younger kids, Arizona is expecting an initial allocation of 224,700 pediatric doses with more to follow.
The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it has enough Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to support vaccinating the 28 million U.S. children who are ages 5 to 11 years old.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide full funding to states to support vaccination operations and outreach, including setting up sites, procuring equipment and supplies to store and administer the vaccine, and providing transportation to and from vaccination sites, the White House announcement says.
While there may be a special vaccination clinic in your area or at a local school, many parents will be able to visit doctors’ offices, pediatricians, community health clinics or retail pharmacies, Herrington wrote in his blog post.
“Arizona has more than 900 providers onboarded to administer pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations in addition to retail pharmacies,” he wrote.
“When the rollout for ages 5-11 begins, you will be able to filter our Vaccine Finder at azdhs.gov/findvaccine for pediatric vaccine providers, as you now can do for providers offering specific vaccines.”
The state Health Department will allocate set amounts of vaccine to local jurisdictions based on their pediatric population, which in turn will allocate to providers that can vaccinate the age 5 to 11 population in their areas, according to Herrington.
State data shows 41 young people under the age of 20 have died of COVID-19 in Arizona since the onset of the pandemic, including 12 deaths during the last six months.
Nearly 3,000 individuals younger than 20 have been hospitalized with COVID-19. In rare cases, children infected with COVID-19 have developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a potentially deadly condition.
“As with colds and influenza, children are effective spreaders of disease to each other and to people who are more vulnerable, including higher-risk youth and adults who either aren’t vaccinated or could develop a rare breakthrough case of COVID-19,” Herrington wrote.
“With more than 600,000 children in this age group added to those eligible for vaccination, we can move Arizona even closer to herd immunity against COVID-19.”
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