Colorado places order for COVID-19 vaccines for kids ages 5 to 11 ahead of federal authorization

Colorado places order for COVID-19 vaccines for kids ages 5
to 11 ahead of federal authorization 1

Colorado has ordered 171,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to kickstart the state’s campaign to get children between the ages of 5 and 11 vaccinated once federal regulators authorize the shots for the age group.

An advisory panel for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will meet Tuesday to consider whether to recommend the vaccine for younger children. Federal officials are expected to authorize the shots for the age group, with Dr. Anthony Fauci saying Sunday that the shots could be available to children “within the first week or two of November.”

That means Colorado could get its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 as early as next week, said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for the state Department of Public Health and Environment.

“Knowing the vaccine is coming, we have to get ready to distribute them and make sure people have access to vaccination,” he said.

Colorado placed part of its order for COVID-19 vaccines last week and plans to complete the preorder by Tuesday, according to the health department.

Specific details of how the state will get the shots into children’s arms have not yet been revealed. France said the agency is “not quite ready to announce” who will administer the shots and where the state may host vaccination clinics.

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Generally, the state will rely on pediatricians, pharmacies and local public health agencies to administer the vaccines. Clinics will also be held on evenings and weekends — times that are more convenient for families — in November, he said.

“We are talking closely with superintendents of school districts as well as local public health agencies,” France said.

School districts have the option to apply for the ability to host vaccine clinics or to have the state’s mobile bus come to campuses to help administer the shots, he said.

The state health department has a goal to get half of the 479,895 children between the ages of 5 and 11 immunized against the coronavirus by the end of January, France said.

The availability of a COVID-19 vaccine for younger children comes as the age group is experiencing more infections than they previously did during the pandemic. For this reason, younger children have been more vulnerable during the return to school this fall.

“Childhood cases are an important component of the pandemic today,” France said. “A child who gets COVID at school can go home and pass it to other family members.”

Children are less likely to experience severe symptoms of COVID-19, but they can develop a serious and rare inflammatory condition called MIS-C or have persisting symptoms in what has been termed “long COVID.”

The FDA released an analysis last week that said the protection it would offer against severe cases of COVID-19 “would clearly outweigh” the risk to myocarditis, a heart-related side-effect. And data from Pfizer not only showed that the shots appeared safe in children ages 5 to 11, but it was also almost 91% effective in preventing symptoms of the disease.

School districts contacted by The Denver Post, including Jeffco Public Schools, Littleton Public Schools and Cherry Creek School District, either did not respond to interview requests or declined to comment until their vaccination plans are finalized.

A spokesperson for Douglas County School District said earlier this month that there were no plans yet to host vaccination clinics at schools, but that the district would “communicate out any opportunities and locations as they come available.”

Denver Public Schools plans to offer COVID-19 vaccines to students ages 5 to 11 at schools both during the day and in evenings. Denver Health will also host vaccine clinics near the 18 school-based health clinics they already have on campuses as part of its initial push to get younger students inoculated, said Jade Williamson, manager of the district’s Healthy Schools.

The Denver Health clinics on Denver Public School campuses already offer COVID-19 vaccines to anyone 12 and older.

“The goal is always to do it in a way that is convenient for families,” Williamson said, adding, “Being vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep kids in school.”

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