Anne Arundel County is planning a clinic Friday to vaccinate people aged 5-11 against COVID-19 as it prepares to launch into a new phase of vaccination.
Details for the clinic, including location, are being finalized. The Centers for Disease Control authorized use of the vaccine Tuesday evening. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized emergency use of doses for children 5 to 11, but the CDC also must sign off before widespread vaccinations begin.
There are 51,000 children in the county who will be eligible for vaccination starting this week if, as expected, the CDC authorizes use of a vaccine formulated and dosed specifically for kids. County health officer Nilesh Kalyanaraman said Tuesday morning that demand for the vaccine is expected to outpace supply at first, and it may take three or four weeks for supply to catch up.
“But rest assured we will vaccinate your children,” Kaylanaraman said.
Kalyanaraman said the county should initially receive around 12,500 doses to distribute in the coming days and weeks. The health department will get 5,000 to distribute, 10 pediatrician offices will get 2,500 and 30 pharmacies will get 5,000.
“We should be getting more as the weeks roll out,” Kalyanaraman said.
Wednesday evening or Thursday morning the county expects to announce the specific time when appointment registration will begin. The first slate of appointments will be released at two separate times. Appointments can also be made over the phone. At first vaccinations in this age group will be appointment-only, no walk-ups.
The county has worked with pediatricians to promote the vaccination of people age 12-18, and that will soon include 5-11 year olds. Pediatricians’ offices will be the most comfortable place for the youngest eligible to be vaccinated, Kaylanaraman said, and offices are expected to communicate with their patients when the vaccine becomes available.
Kalyanaraman said that while children experience lower rates of severe COVID-19, they have been hospitalized both in the county and around the country, making the vaccine an important step to keep kids safe.
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Kalyanaraman said a survey of parents shows about a third of families are eager to vaccinate, a third will wait to see how the first vaccinations go and a third don’t want to vaccinate, similar to what they saw for adult vaccinations. Those numbers are expected to shift as more children are vaccinated, as they did for adults. At least 67% of eligible adults in Anne Arundel have received at least one dose vaccine dose, according to state figures.
The existing stock of Pfizer vaccine cannot be used to vaccinate children. The vaccination approved for children 5-11 is specially formulated and dosed for that age group, and comes in different packaging.
Urging parents to sign up their kids as soon as possible, Kalyanaraman said he would be registering his 9-year-old and 11-year-old when appointments become available.
He said the county will work with the school system to bring vaccination clinics to 24 elementary schools.
“It’s how we can make it easy for parents to get their kids vaccinated and do it in a comfortable space,” Kalyanaraman said.
While for adults the strategy was to direct patients to large vaccination sites, for kids the county is using many smaller sites.
“Our goal is to have a lot of small sites, which is why we’re really focusing on the strategy of using elementary schools to provide vaccinations,” he said.