New Hampshire prepares for a rollout of pediatric vaccines

New Hampshire is preparing to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 after federal health officials gave a green light to the child-sized doses.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s independent advisory panel unanimously recommended children in that age group should be vaccinated against the virus.

The move makes an estimated 28 million U.S. children — including an estimated 125,000 in New Hampshire — eligible for vaccinations as early as this week.

President Joe Biden’s administration said it and Pfizer are packing and shipping 15 million doses of the pediatric vaccines to states and providers.

Gov. Chris Sununu said the state has pre-ordered 15,000 doses and expects to be able to offer the vaccines to eligible children within the next week. He said the vaccines will likely be available at pharmacies before then.

“Some may take a week or two to get their final shipments in, but we’ll have a lot of availability for parents, if they so choose to make that choice for their kids,” Sununu told reporters at a Tuesday briefing.

Sununu said the state isn’t requiring children get vaccinated for COVID-19, but urged Granite State parents to get their kids vaccinated to prevent further spread of the virus.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice approval of vaccines for younger kids follows a similar recommendation last week by the Food and Drug Administration, which called for smaller doses – roughly one-third of the amount given to teenagers and adults – for emergency use.

The FDA reviewed the findings of clinical trials, which found the kid-size vaccine is nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

Side-effects among the 3,000 children who participated in the Pfizer vaccine study were minor and included sore arms, a fever or mild aches, the FDA said.

Dr. Benjamin Chan, New Hampshire’s epidemiologist, said eligible children will get two shots of the pediatric vaccine at least three weeks apart. He said doses will be smaller than those given to teenagers and adults and clinical trials reviewed by federal health agencies have been shown them to be safe and effective for kids.

Public schools have been asked to offer pop-up clinics for children, and state health officials are planning a public education campaign to vaccinate the younger age group.

The state has also posted an online map of 200 vaccine sites for children ages 5-11 at pharmacies, hospitals, doctor’s offices and walk-in clinics.

Chan said while the number of COVID-19 infections in New Hampshire – including those among the 5-11 age group – remains low, the latest health shows the virus is still spreading.

New Hampshire is averaging 500 and 600 COVID-19 cases per day and has a test positivity rate of more than 6%, he said Tuesday.

While children have been spared the worst health impacts from COVID-19, the 5- to 11-year-old age group still has been seriously affected, according to the CDC.

“The chances a child will have severe COVID, require hospitalization or develop a long-term complication like MIS-C remains low but still the risk remains too high and too devastating to our children and far higher for many other diseases for which we vaccinate our children,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the federal agency’s director, said on Tuesday.

Nationwide, more than 8,300 hospitalizations for COVID infection have been among the 5-11 age group, roughly one-third of which required intensive care.

At least 94 children in that age group have died, the CDC says.

This article was originally posted on New Hampshire prepares for a rollout of pediatric vaccines

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