Black and white picture of a little girl holding a stuffed unicorn and getting her arm swabbed

Contra Costa Health Services Prepares to Vaccinate Children 5-11

Black and white picture of a little girl holding a stuffed unicorn and getting her arm swabbed
Children 5-11 could soon be eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Here, a young girl is about to receive an unspecified vaccine in 2019. (Photo by Heather Hazzan for Self Magazine, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

By Michael J. Fitzgerald

Contra Costa Health Services announced this week it is preparing to vaccinate children ages 5-11 as soon as it gets the green light from federal and state health officials.

With that decision expected soon, CCHS has pre-ordered thousands of doses of the children’s Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

The county agency expects it will receive approximately 20,000 doses this week for the county and its partner clinics. Other healthcare providers and pharmacies are getting ready too, stocking up on the vaccine, CCHS officials said.

As part of the push, CCHS is working with healthcare providers and educational institutions including John Muir Health, La Clinica and Lifelong Medical. They are expected to host vaccine clinics at school sites once the younger children are eligible. Details about school site clinics will be announced soon, CCHS said.

“I know a lot of parents have been waiting a long time to be able to get their younger kids vaccinated,” said Diane Burgis, chair of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors. “We’re almost there. If everything goes right, parents will be able to get their children fully vaccinated before the winter holidays.”

Exactly when the vaccine will be available depends on when federal and state officials complete their review processes. On Friday, the Food & Drug Administration approved emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine in children 5-11.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is expected to decide soon whether to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for children in the 5-11 age bracket. Its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices was engaged in an all-day meeting regarding the decision at the time of this article’s publication. The CDC’s approval is needed before vaccines can be given to this age group.

If it does give a recommendation for use, it may take several days before clinics actually begin administering the pediatric vaccines, the CCHS said. The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, a regional group of scientists from several states including California, must also weigh in after the CDC makes it decision.

Parents should check with their child’s healthcare provider or local pharmacies about availability. CCHS expects to begin offering the pediatric vaccine by Nov. 6 at county-run vaccination clinics, pending approvals.

The pediatric COVID-19 vaccine is one-third the dosage given to adolescents and adults. The vaccines for the children will come in different vials and packaging than the adult version.

Children ages 5-11 must get two shots at least three weeks apart to get the maximum protection — just like adults. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was shown to have a 90.7% efficacy rate in clinical trials among this age group, CCHS said.

CCHS officials believe initial demand for the pediatric vaccine will be high. There are an estimated 92,000 county residents between the ages of 5 and 11.

Contra Costa County has a high vaccination rate among its eligible residents, including among those ages 12-15, currently the youngest age group eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

As of Tuesday, about 88% of residents aged 12-15 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

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