Howard County Public School System Superintendent Michael Martirano announced Tuesday at a Board of Education meeting that the Howard County Health Department plans to hold COVID-19 vaccination clinics for children ages 5 to 11 at Howard Community College beginning Friday.
The Food and Drug Administration last week authorized emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose vaccine for ages 5 to 11, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave its final approval Tuesday.
The school system recently surveyed parents of kindergarten through sixth grade students to gauge their vaccination intentions, and about 44% of those parents responded. The data from parents who responded shows 87% of children in the 5-11 age group would get vaccinated, according to Martirano.
Howard County Health Officer Dr. Maura Rossman said the county initially will receive a total of 9,300 doses, which will be divided among 15 providers. The health department will receive 4,200 doses and private sector will receive 5,100 doses. This supply will be enough vaccine to fully immunize 4,650 children. There are an estimated 33,000 Howard County children in this age group, according to Rossman.
Beginning Friday, the health department will operate clinics five days a week from 3 to 7 p.m. at Duncan Hall on the Howard Community College campus, 6040 Scholarship Dr. in Columbia. Information about the online preregistration process will be posted at howardcountymd.gov/health/pediatric-covid-19-vaccine after 5 p.m. Thursday. Preregistration will be required for the estimated 400 appointments per day.
Appointments at the clinics will only be for ages 5 to 11 as older siblings/parents cannot be vaccinated using the pediatric vaccine formulation, according to Rossman. Walk-ups will not be accepted.
Vaccines will also be available at pediatricians, family health practices, pharmacies and large retailers, according to the health department’s website.
As of Tuesday, 728 students and 27 staff members are in quarantine, according to Martirano. With its current five outbreaks, the school system has a total of 13 students who were initially identified as close contacts and ultimately tested positive over the 14-day quarantine period, a decline from the 28 testing positive as of Oct. 21.
As of Monday, the seven-day total of positive coronavirus cases in county public schools is 48.
Martirano said the school system has no plans to revise its current quarantine protocols as the precautions have helped to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“I am optimistic that the impending approval of vaccines for our children ages 5 through 11 will add another layer of protection and at that time, the number of students needing to quarantine could significantly decrease,” Martirano said in a statement.
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Rossman said 95.1% of eligible Howard County residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine, as of Monday, and 88.5% are fully vaccinated. In the 12-17 age group, 90.8% have received at least one dose and 83.5% are fully vaccinated, according to Martirano.