Children between the ages of 5 and 11 in Johnson County are now eligible to receive the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
That comes after an expert panel advising the CDC recommended the vaccine for widespread use among children, and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky signed off on the move Tuesday.
This is the first pediatric COVID-19 vaccine given emergency use authorization in the country.
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment announced Tuesday it will begin to offer COVID-19 shots to children beginning Monday, Nov 8.
The vaccine will also be widely available to children in pharmacies and pediatric offices in Johnson County and across the Kansas City region.
“The Pfizer pediatric vaccine for children was determined to be safe and very effective against symptomatic COVID disease, according to the FDA review of the Pfizer data,” Johnson County health director Sanmi Areola, Ph.D., said in a press release. “We encourage families to take advantage of this opportunity to get school-age children vaccinated.”
When will the vaccine be available?
Vaccinations will begin immediately but an appointment will be needed in most cases.
Because the pediatric formula of the vaccine requires a different set of packaging, shipping and administration guidelines than the vaccine for adolescents and adults, its rollout may take some time before a steady supply is reached.
“The program will still be ramping up to its full strength, with millions more doses packed, shipped, and delivered, and thousands of additional sites coming online each day,” Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said Monday.
Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas in Overland Park will begin vaccinating children on Saturday, but appointments are currently full.
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment will begin administering vaccines to children at its Mission clinic on Monday, Nov. 8. You will have to schedule an appointments in advance.
Select CVS and Walgreen pharmacies will also be administering the Pfizer pediatric shot. Appointments will be necessary there, too, and locations with supplies of pediatric vaccines will vary.
“There’s a lot involved in getting the process set up, getting the clinics open, getting space for this, getting the orders and the electronic medical records all set,” Dr. Stephen Lauer, a pediatrician with the KU Health System said on the KU daily briefing. “The hope is that by sometime next week, we’d be able to be in a position to do this, but we want to do it the right way too.”
Where can children get COVID-19 shots?
JCDHE will begin offering the vaccines starting Monday, Nov. 8, to the children aged 5-11 by appointment at its Mission clinic, 6000 Lamar Ave)., starting Monday.
The clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and appointments can be made up until 3:30 p.m.. The clinic is open from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays with appointment on those days can be at until 6:30 p.m.
Appointments can be made by visiting jocogov.org/coronavirus. Children ages 15 and younger must have a parent, guardian, or other designated adult present.
A discussion about vaccine information will be open to the public and held at JCDHE’s Facebook page live on Thursday, Nov. 4, at 12:30 p.m.
There will be ongoing vaccinations at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Overland Park beginning Monday, Nov. 8.
All Children’s Mercy locations will administer vaccines to children by appointment, which can be set up using their online portal or calling the COVID scheduling hotline at 816-302-6300.
Walgreens Pharmacy will also begin administering pediatric COVID-19 shots starting Saturday, Nov. 6, but a scheduled appointment may be needed, which can be done here.
Calling ahead may be a good idea as not all pharmacies will have access to the lower-dose shot.
Also, select CVS Pharmacy locations will also be administering vaccine shots for younger children beginning Sunday, Nov. 7.
Again, calling ahead to make sure the vaccine is in supply and to schedule an appointment is recommended, and that can be done here.
Is there anything different about the vaccine for children?
The vaccine that was authorized by the FDA and recommended this week by the CDC for emergency use authorization is a lower dose formula from the vaccine used for adolescents and adults.
The pediatric version of the Pfizer vaccine only contains 10 micrograms — or one-third — of the active ingredient in the regular Pfizer adult dose.
In trials, this lower dose vaccine has shown a strong immune response to infection while registering mild side effects, including fatigue, headaches and soreness at the injection site.
This week’s CDC authorization follows a study of a test group of 4,700 children between 5 and 11. Data from the controlled group show the child’s dose is 90% effective in preventing infection against COVID-19.
The pediatric vaccine can also be stored and refrigerated for up to 10 weeks. That is longer than the shelf life for the higher formula adult version.
That’s and advantage for pediatric offices and pharmacies where the vaccine might be administered.
Following the first dose, children will need to wait 21 days or longer before getting a second dose.
Is there any reason parents should be worried about getting their child vaccinated?
As with any vaccine, there are dangers and unknowns. And many parents seem to be on the fence about getting their younger children vaccinated right away.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll last month showed about a third of parents would get their children aged 5 to 11 vaccinated immediately when it was available, another third said they planned to wait to see how the vaccine was doing in children before getting their child vaccinated and a final third said they were definitely not getting their child vaccinated.
Many health experts say getting a vaccine is a risk but allowing eligible children to go exposed to COVID-19 infection may be riskier.
During the vaccine trials, mild side effects were observed in children ages 5 to 11, but in those same trials there were no cases of myocarditis — inflammation of the heart muscle — which has been a very rare but serious complication for some recipients of the adult version of the vaccine.
While older children have been able to receive the vaccine for months now, health officials say the vaccination of younger children is a step toward normalcy and another way to reduce the disruption of children’s day-to-day lives.
This is most obviously the case in schools.
Currently, Johnson County continues to require masking in schools serving students up to and including 6th grade. And most public school districts still require universal masking all the way through high school.