Memphis pediatricians prepare to administer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 once approved

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 5:39 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Elementary-aged children could soon be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine at their pediatrician’s office, local pharmacy and potentially even their school, according to the White House.

Approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds depends on favorable recommendations at FDA’s independent advisory committee meeting on October 26 and the CDC’s independent advisory committee meeting in early November.

Although it could be several weeks before approval, local hospitals are already preparing.

”We’ll start giving it to the kids that we can give it to here absolutely,” said Dr. Sandy Arnold, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

She says vaccines are essential to ending the pandemic.

”I strongly encourage everybody. Everybody should be vaccinated who is eligible, and soon that is going to include 5 to 11-year-olds.”

Federal regulators will meet over the next two weeks to weigh the safety and effectiveness of giving low-dose shots to the roughly 28 million children in that age group.

According to the White House, Pfizer manufactured the doses with a new formula made specifically for the age group and with smaller needles.

”I think it requires a team to approach this situation from getting the vaccine when it’s available to store in your institution to being able to give it every day to every patient, have it, where they really accessible, so to not miss opportunities,” said Dr. Diego Hijano, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Hijano says his team is also preparing to vaccinate elementary-aged children.

”Certainly, the recommendation for all of our patients, because we know they are at high risk of severe disease is to get vaccinated because most of them have comorbidities either because they have sickle cell disease or they have cancer, or they have undergone a bone marrow transplant,” he said.

A spokesperson with the Shelby County Health Department says they are closely following developments in Washington and released the following statement:

“SCHD is working with its state and local partners to make the vaccines available to younger children as soon as possible after those expected approvals. Vaccinating this vulnerable age group against COVID-19 will be a significant step in making in-person school safer for Shelby County’s children, teachers and other school staff members. Most importantly, it will provide a valuable layer of protection for our community as a whole.”

Action News 5 reached out to other area hospitals to see how they’re preparing.

Baptist Memorial released the following statement:

“We are looking forward to helping provide safe and convenient access to COVID-19 vaccines to children 5-11 years old in the metro-Memphis area. We have already started working with local health departments on how we will access the vaccine once it has received emergency use authorization. We are also developing a plan for administration of the vaccine. We have experience providing the vaccine to children 12 years old and older. While the dosage for children 5–11 years old will be different than the dosage of the vaccine we’ve used thus far, we are confident it will be effective in helping to protect children and their families from COVID-19 and serious illness. As soon as our plans are solidified, we will make the information available to the community.”

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