The Centers for Disease Control signed off Tuesday on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, the Washington Post reported, opening the door for elementary school children to get vaccinated.
Idaho has already pre-ordered pediatric vaccines while it waited for federal permission to give them out. Some 11,400 doses were delivered Tuesday, Idaho Immunization Program manager Sarah Leeds said during the Department of Health and Welfare’s weekly COVID-19 briefing.
Thousands more doses are on the way.
“Regarding vaccinations, they are safe and we know that they work,” Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said.
Parents should expect that they can make appointments for children to get vaccinated later this week or early next week, Leeds said. Parents should contact their child’s pediatrician to set up an appointment.
The arrival of the Pfizer vaccine comes as Idaho’s pediatric cases of COVID-19 are falling — but remain higher than they were over the summer. The count of kids’ cases is just now returning to the same levels as the peak of the COVID-19 surge from last winter, deputy state epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Turner said.
“We still need to go down quite a bit, even though we have decreased significantly,” Turner said.
It’s unclear how many parents will seek out the pediatric vaccine. Only 33% of Idaho’s 12- to 17-year-olds are vaccinated, DHW officials said Tuesday. According to the Mayo Clinic, that rate is closer to 50% nationwide.
“We would definitely like to see these rates even higher as we move into the holiday season to keep our kids healthy and ready to return to the classroom after our family gatherings,” Shaw-Tulloch said.
The vast majority of Idaho’s coronavirus cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations involve unvaccinated people.
More than 250 Idaho children under 18 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, and 37 have been diagnosed with MIS-C, a severe inflammatory disease that can make children very sick after they contract COVID.
“It’s really important for people to know that kids are not spared from the harm of COVID-19,” Dr. Lisa Barker, a pediatrician, said during Tuesday’s call.
She recalled one of her patients, a young boy who presented with a mild case of COVID-19. Four weeks later, he was back in her office with “head-to-toe” symptoms of MIS-C, including a full body rash, red eyes, prolonged fever and obvious discomfort and fatigue. These children typically need to be treated in the hospital to help boost immune response to the disease, she said.
Barker said most parents who ask her about the vaccine are excited for the chance to immunize their children. She has heard some parents concerned about the risk of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.
Myocarditis has most often occurred among young males, in the older-adolescent and young adult age groups, DHW officials said. The cases tend to be mild and self-resolving, Barker said.
Scientists believe they will see less myocarditis in the younger population, Dr. Christine Hahn said.
Studies show that COVID disease, and MIS-C, carry a higher risk of myocarditis, Barker said, and “it happens to be more severe.”