Focus on Physicians Over Schools in District Child Vaccination Plans

DC Health Says Data Indicates Parents Prefer to Have Children Vaccinated "In Healthcare Settings"

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On Oct. 26, a committee of vaccine advisors for the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) voted in favor of recommending the FDA grant emergency use authorization (EUA) for use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years, CNN reported.

DC Health says they are working with healthcare providers to ensure they are ready to vaccinate the 46,010 children aged 5 to 11 throughout the city.

But despite the fact that the rollout would essentially apply to students at Kindergarten level to Grade 6, the District is not planning to use elementary and middle schools as primary sites for vaccination clinics. Instead, DC Health says they will work with continue to work with healthcare providers to increase the number of access points throughout the community.

School officials in Maryland have offered to set up vaccination clinics. The Denver Post reported that Denver Public Schools is planning to offer the vaccine to kids aged 5 to 11 at school in addition to 18 school-based clinics already on site to offer the vaccine to students aged 12 and older.

Focus on Healthcare Providers

However, DC Health said they are not currently making plans to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to elementary-school aged children through the schools. Instead, their focus will be on healthcare providers, which a representative characterized as “key to ensuring access to the vaccine”.

“Surveys conducted nationally indicated that parents prefer for their children to receive vaccinations in healthcare settings,” DC Health said in a statement. “DC vaccination data strongly supports this preference and we will continue to work with healthcare providers to increase the number of access points throughout the community.”

The COVID vaccine is offered at more than 150 locations across the District, DC Health said.

“DC Health will continue to ensure wide access is available throughout the community to include pop-up vaccination clinics when indicated,” the statement concluded.

When asked if COVID-19 vaccination could become compulsory for school attendance in the future, DC Health would only say that it is not currently required for attendance.

Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt speaks at the Sept. 20, 2021 Situational Update. Screenshot: Twitter @MayorBowser

At the Sept. 20 press conference, DC Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt was asked about plans to vaccinate children. “We have learned that parents prefer to go to their family doctor or to their pediatrician for these services,” Nesbitt said.

“It was true for the 12 to 15 year old population; we expect it to be true for 5 to 11 year olds, and we expect it to be true for 0 to 4 year olds when it is their turn,” she continued. “So we will continue to focus on engaging healthcare providers in the District of Columbia to be part of that outreach.”

At the same conference, Dr. Nesbitt said that the outreach for 5 to 11 year olds is really about parents and helping them to have confidence in vaccinating their children. She said that the best strategy is to coney how the benefits of vaccination out way the risk, and to help them understand that vaccination is the best protection against school infection and disruptions.

What’s Next

Even if the CDC and FDA grant EUA for kids 5 to 11, District children are likely still at least two weeks away from getting their first dose. The FDA will consider the committee recommendation over the next few days before making their decision.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention meets Nov. 2 to 3 to discuss whether they should recommend kids get the vaccine, taking the FDA recommendation into account. If CDC Director Rochelle Walensky approves, vaccination could begin nationally as early as the following week, starting Nov. 8, CNN reported.

The recommended dose for children is a third that of adults —10 mcg to the adult dose of 30 mcg, said a representative for Pfizer. It will be packaged 10 doses per vial, with a unique label and different color cap. “The pediatric doses will be available in smaller packaging configurations to better suit the needs of pediatric clinics,” the representative said.

That means that new vaccines need to be ordered before children start getting the COVID vaccine. DC Health said they anticipate being able to order vaccines for children once the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIPapproves EUA, adding that the federal government has indicated that there will be sufficient supply.

The Biden administration said Oct. 20 that unlike the initial rollout, there is expected to be more than enough supplies of the Pfizer vaccine for eligible children. The White House told the Associated Press that about 15 million doses could be shipped to providers in the first week after it is approved by the CDC and FDA.

Pfizer says clinical trials indicate the vaccine is 90 percent successful in preventing asymptomatic infection in children aged 5 to 11. As of Oct. 26, the Washington Post Vaccine Tracker reported that 73.7 percent of the District population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 62.1 percent, or 431,798 people, fully vaccinated.

See COVID-19 data for the District by visiting coronavirus.dc.gov/data/vaccination

An earlier version of this story gave the approximate date for the start of vaccination of children 5 to 11 as Nov. 10. It has been updated to reflect that projected start was for the following week, as opposed to a week after the CDC meeting. The Hill Rag regrets any confusion.