TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — On Friday, the FDA authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children from five to 11 years old.
Pima County’s plan to vaccinate the younger age group—is already in motion, with 11,400 pediatric doses expected to arrive at 15 local providers by early next week.
A final sign-off from the CDC could come as soon as Tuesday, after which five to 11 year olds would be eligible to get the shot.
“If they should so recommend, we are able to pivot relatively quickly and start delivering doses to those children,” said Pima County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia.
“You will really see us doubling down on vaccinating this particular age group,” he added, reiterating that the Pima County Health Department is “all in” on vaccinations “as the way to get back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Most COVID cases (47.6%) at Pima County schools, so far this school year, come from students 11 or younger—who so far have not been vaccine eligible.
Once that changes, the county plans to use a variety of health care partners to distribute the vaccine, including federally qualified community health centers, pharmacies, pediatric and other care centers.
Garcia says 77 providers in the county are already pre-approved to administer the pediatric vaccine, which is one-third the size of the regular Pfizer dose used in those 12 and older.
“Logistically, it’s gonna be a different operation,” Garcia said. “Because the dosing is different. Because the preparation and handling are gonna be slightly different. So we’re still trying to work out some of those logistics.”
Garcia says the necessary infrastructure is already in place from previous vaccine rollouts. He said the county plans to give out the vaccine at schools as well, through partnerships with school districts.
“We have already created the infrastructure to do mobile vaccine delivery in our schools,” Garcia said. “We will continue to build on those relationships and that infrastructure to deliver vaccine in those settings.”
Many parents remain hesitant or completely opposed to getting their kids the shot.
“There are folks whose minds are movable on this issue,” Garcia said. “And there may be folks who are not as movable on this issue.”
Garcia is not getting discouraged, however. He is hopeful that familiarity and personal experience with the vaccine for parents or their loved ones may ease some concerns.
“Before, this was something that was completely foreign, it might as well have been from outer space,” he said. “This is a known entity now. This is not something that is exotic.”
Inevitably, Garcia says parents must also consider the risks of keeping their children unprotected from the virus at school.
“Most parents want their kids to be in school, most parents can’t afford to take time off to deal with a kid who’s in quarantine or in isolation,” he reasoned. “Most parents don’t want to even contemplate the thought that their kid might be that rare kid with COVID that has long-term sequela or that requires hospitalization.”