Pediatricians prepare to be on front lines of kid vaccine rollout

ORLANDO, Fla. — The looming approval of the coronavirus vaccine for kids aged five to 11 has thousands of pediatricians readying themselves for a string of vaccinations as soon as November 1.

On Wednesday, the White House announced it had purchased enough doses to protect 28 million kids from the virus and was moving the supplies to all 50 states in preparation.

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Pfizer’s study for the age group began in March and involved more than 2,200 children. It discovered a dose 1/3 the size of the adult version was strong enough to invoke an immune response, but not enough to pose a safety risk. The data showed the kids experienced only minor side effects like fevers, sore arms and fatigue, all common reactions to vaccines.

Administration officials said the specially marked vials will come with smaller needles appropriate for kids’ smaller bodies. The rollout will also focus on individual pediatric offices, hospitals and pharmacies instead of mass vaccination sites, which will allow worried parents to pose their questions to a trusted doctor.

“They always have some concerns – what are the side effects, is this safe – and so we can have a good conversation about that,” Dr. Salma Elfaki of Nona Pediatric Center said.

READ: White House releases plan to vaccinate 28M children

Elfaki, who compared her own vaccine last year to a Christmas gift, said she has been fielding phone calls from many parents who are trying to set up appointments before the holidays. She said she was still trying to develop a system to handle the extra appointments.

With adult vaccination rates advancing, kids now make up 20% of COVID-19 cases. Hospitalization rates for that age group surged during the virus’ summer spike.

READ: CDC: Two Pfizer doses show 93% effectiveness against COVID-19 hospitalization for teens

Elfaki said she was not able to participate in the trials for the youngest group, but her office did enroll close to 100 participants in the teen trials. She said all of her patients were healthy and well. Additionally, none of them experienced rare heart inflammation known as myocarditis that some parents – particularly of boys – worried about.

“Prior to the vaccine being available, I did have some teenagers who got the COVID infection and develop some of those conditions,” she said, affirming reports that showed kids have a significantly higher risk of developing the condition from the virus compared to the vaccine.

READ: Natural immunity vs. vaccination: Which fights off COVID-19 best?

Doctors say myocarditis conditions resulting from the vaccine typically resolve themselves. Additionally, kids in particular are at risk of developing another rare inflammatory condition known as MIS-C that is caused by the virus.

The FDA could authorize the doses as soon as next week. Dr. Elfaki believed she could receive her first batch as soon as two to three days after.

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