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Maryland readies for COVID vaccine rollout for children ages 5-11, says it will initially get 180,000 doses

Maryland will have 180,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses ready for 5- to 11-year-olds once the shot gets federal clearance for that age group, according to state officials who say that supply will be enough — for now.

That federal authorization will make about 515,000 Maryland children immediately eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, state officials said at a Monday news briefing where Gov. Larry Hogan also urged COVID boosters for all eligible Marylanders.

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Many parents of young children have been waiting anxiously for approval of vaccines for kids 5 to 11. Surveys also show as many as a third of parents nationally may be reluctant to get their kids vaccinated.

State officials say they’ve been coordinating with school systems and local health departments to reach children who may not have a pediatrician or whose families lack a primary care provider.

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“We want to start immediately,” Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader said. “We ordered everything we could get and we wanted it here.”

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel will meet this week week to discuss the safety and effectiveness of administering the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to young children, then a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee will meet in November. State and local health departments and other vaccinators must wait for the federal guidance before they can start vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds.

State health officials were asked at the news conference about the initial supply.

“It actually is a lot more than we ever got in one go,” Deputy Health Secretary Jinlene Chan said. “So we believe that getting that amount early on in the state will actually help get those initial groups of kids and their parents who want to get their vaccinations as soon as possible.”

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Each child will need two separate doses, three weeks apart, for full effectiveness, the same as adults. Pfizer would be the only vaccine producer authorized for this age group, just as it is the only one authorized for 12- to 17-year-olds.

Earlier, Hogan urged eligible Marylanders — particularly those with high blood pressure, diabetes and other medical conditions — to get a COVID vaccine booster shot.

Echoing federal government guidance, the Republican governor said recipients can choose any of the available vaccines, even if it is different from one of the three types they initially received.

Maryland has administered about 280,000 COVID-19 booster shots, “and a vigorous outreach effort is underway for all Marylanders who are newly eligible,” the state said in a news release.

“We have both the supply and capacity to provide a booster shot to anyone who needs one,” Hogan said.

To meet the criteria for a booster, recipients must be 65 or older, have an underlying condition such as asthma or diabetes, or work in a high-risk setting such as health care or food service. Any adult who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also eligible for a booster two months after receiving the initial shot. The state says almost 1.4 million Marylanders are eligible.

Hogan has been encouraging booster shots since late September, before they were approved for as wide a group under federal guidelines.

According to state data, there has been an increase in the share of post-vaccination infections and deaths since May, and most are linked to existing health conditions and comorbidities.

More than half of Maryland’s coronavirus deaths over the past month are linked to hypertension and diabetes, officials said. Cancer, obesity, and chronic lung disease are other leading comorbidities among COVID-19 deaths.

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