MARION, Va. (WJHL) – Kid-sized COVID-19 vaccine doses are staged across the region and ready to deploy quickly through pediatricians, school sites, pharmacies and more, a regional health official said Monday.
“We hope that there’ll be shots in arms by the end of the week,” Mount Rogers Health District Population Health Manager Breanne Forbes Hubbard told News Channel 11.
If Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky provides the final approval Tuesday, as expected, Forbes-Hubbard said it’s just a matter of getting the different-sized vials and equipment.
“We’re very excited,” Forbes-Hubbard said of health officials’ feelings about the pending rollout — the first new age group approved since 12- to 17-year-olds began receiving shots in May.
“We know that this is an important way to reduce disease transmission in our schools, have kids not to have to quarantine and miss school and activities, parents don’t have to stay home and of course keeping our kids safe and healthy,” she said.
She said vaccines shipped out from federal stores when emergency use authorization was granted last week and are in Virginia now. The state is sending doses out to each region to “pre-position” for the moment it’s fully approved.
“Nobody can give that vaccine yet until CDC gives the go ahead but we want to… have the vaccine available ready to go as soon as possible,” Forbes-Hubbard said.
She expects the regional departments to receive the first batch of doses as early as today and no later than Wednesday.
“Once we get it doesn’t mean we can start giving it yet, because it has to be prepared and shipped out to all the different locations, but we’ve got staff on standby and ready to go with that as soon as it comes in so we can start getting it out to the community.”
Pediatricians’ offices won’t be the only convenient place for parents to get their younger kids vaccinated. Like they did when the 12-15 availability rolled out, health department staff will offer clinics in schools.
Scheduling information will be sent out by school systems once the vaccine is authorized for use in Virginia, and clinics are being planned for the first few weeks in November. All clinics will be held after school hours, and a parent must accompany children being vaccinated.
“We’ll be going in the evenings to accommodate parents’ working hours and we’ll be at schools throughout the district offering the vaccine there,” Forbes-Hubbard said.
Pharmacies are also likely to have some supply, but Forbes-Hubbard expects many parents to go with their most trusted resource for their children’s health — pediatricians.
She said demand could outstrip supply early on. Some parents are already scheduling appointments for their children.
While the vaccine has the same formulation as the adult version, a new “buffer” makes it more shelf-stable so that doses can stay refrigerated for longer periods before they have to be thrown out.
“It’s more shelf stable for a little bit longer, which makes it easier for vaccinators, for pediatricians to give it if they don’t have to have it in a deep freezer and bring it out of that ultra cold.”
With different-sized vials and an inability to draw from existing adult doses on hand, families early on could find a lack of supply at certain providers.
“There’s vaccine coming but in trying to distribute it equitably around the region to different providers, not everybody has as much pediatric vaccine as they do have adult vaccine right now.”
Forbes Hubbard said an additional surge of demand wouldn’t be the worst problem she could imagine. She said she hopes parents in an area with a low overall vaccination rate. If that happens, she urged parents to persevere until they get a convenient appointment.
Local health departments will schedule vaccination appointments. Due to limited supply, appointments will be scheduled in blocks of 10, to avoid wasting any doses.
“You might find that you don’t have all the days and times that you would like available to you because providers are trying to schedule in those doses in appointments of 10 to get those 10 doses in a vial all distributed and not have to waste any.”