Oct 29, 2021 - Health

How shots will make it into kids' arms

Illustration of a round bandaid in the shape of smiley face on a child's arm
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The rollout to get COVID-19 vaccines into kids' arms could begin as early as next week.

Why it matters: Many parents have been eagerly awaiting this moment for months, especially as schools returned to in-person instruction. And doctors, pharmacists and federal regulators already have a plan in place to help get kids vaccinated as soon as possible.

State of play: The FDA is expected to sign off today on an emergency use authorization for Pfizer's vaccine in kids ages 5-11 — two shots that are each about a third of the size of the adult dose. Then the CDC will likely recommend that people actually get the shots.

What's next: The Biden administration and Pfizer have coordinated to make sure more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices — along with hundreds of community clinics, and tens of thousands of pharmacies — will have doses available as soon as they get the government's stamp of approval.

  • Pfizer is expected to begin shipping vaccines, specifically packaged for child-sized doses, as early as this weekend, said Christopher Cox, a senior vice president in CVS Health's pharmacy division.
  • The vaccines may not be available everywhere all at once. CVS will have the vaccine in "thousands" of locations on day one, but not in every store, Cox said.

What we're watching: Experts say that about a third of families will want to get their newly eligible kids vaccinated right away.

  • "I think there will be enough in the market in the first week for that third of the population who will want to rush in," Cox said. "The trick will be matching the doses with where the demand is ... I think [the vaccine] is going to be in every community really early on."
  • Doses could be available from primary care providers and for pediatric inpatients as early as Wednesday, said Claire Boogaard, a pediatrician and the medical director of the COVID-19 Vaccine Program at Children's National Hospital.
  • Her hospital will also offer "larger-scale, invite-only mass vaccine events" on Saturdays, so that kids don't have to miss school, she said. And while some parents may prefer to go to their pediatrician, "it's perfectly safe to go to a pharmacy," especially when time is a factor, she noted.

The bottom line: The vaccines are likely coming. But kids won't be fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving.

  • Like the adult shots, the first and second doses must be spaced at least three weeks apart.
  • "If it mimics the antibody levels we saw in adults, it's not even halfway protective," Boogaard said. "So still be vigilant over the holiday. Wear your masks."
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