California readies 4,000 sites to administer 1.2 million Covid vaccines to kids 5 to 11 in first week

Health, Fitness & Food

Family members look on as Jack Frilingos, 12, is inoculated with Pfizer’s vaccine against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after Georgia authorized the vaccine for ages over 12 years, at Dekalb Pediatric Center in Decatur, Georgia, U.S. May 11, 2021.
Chris Aluka Berry | Reuters

California health officials said Wednesday the state will have 4,000 sites ready to administer 1.2 million Covid shots to children 5 to 11 years old as soon as the vaccines receive full approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The announcement came just a day after the Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee recommended vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech for that age group. The more than 1.2 million vaccine doses will be ready to distribute within the first week after the shots get approved, Dr. Erica Pan, the state’s epidemiologist, said at a Covid briefing.

“We have around 4,000 sites that are ready to administer and over 1,000 providers across the state enrolled to vaccinate,” Pan said. “And more than 860,000 doses of vaccine have already been ordered.”

Over 3.5 million children ages 5 to 11 live in California, roughly 9% of the state’s population, Pan said. The vaccine rollout to young kids could begin as soon as CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky authorizes the shots, which she’s expected to do after the agency’s advisory panel meets Tuesday.

California’s Department of Public Health is already working with schools to administer vaccines, Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the state’s Health and Human Services Agency, said at the briefing. Some schools in California are collaborating with pharmacies and other health-care providers to give out shots, Ghaly said, adding that he expected to see more clinics at education centers appearing in November.

“By the middle of next month, CDPH, working with a lot of local health jurisdictions and other partners, have planned many vaccine locations at schools,” Ghaly said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a vaccine mandate on Oct. 1 for all public grade school students returning to in-person classes once the FDA issues full approval for each age group. The requirement was the first of its kind nationwide. Pfizer’s currently distributing its vaccine under emergency approval. If it receives final regulatory approval before the end of the year, Newsom said it could take effect for students over 12 as soon as Jan. 1

Newsom’s plan will unfold in two phases, starting with kids 12 to 17 once the FDA fully clears vaccines for that age group. The order will then expand to kids 5 to 11, pending the FDA’s approval. The FDA is expected to clear the shots for the younger age group as early as this week with full approval expected to take several months longer. White House officials have said the country has a stockpile of doses to immunize all 28 million of the country’s 5- to 11-year-olds.

If the agency doesn’t fully approve vaccines for those over 12 by the end of the year, Ghaly said the mandate’s starting date would be pushed from January to July. The FDA fully approved Pfizer’s vaccine for everyone 16 and older in August and cleared it for emergency use in adolescents 12 to 15 in May. Moderna and J&J’s vaccines are currently approved for use in adults only.

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