California sets up 4,000 sites to administer 1.2 million Covid vaccines to kids in first week

Family members look at 12-year-old Jack Frelingus being vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after Georgia allowed the vaccine for ages 12+, at the DeKalb Children’s Medical Center in Decatur, Georgia, US May 11, 2021 .

Chris Aluka Berry | Reuters

California health officials said Wednesday that the state will have 4,000 sites ready to give 1.2 million injections of Covid to children ages 5 to 11 once the vaccines receive full approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The announcement came just a day after an FDA advisory committee recommended vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech for that age group. More than 1.2 million doses of the vaccine will be ready for distribution within the first week after the injection is approved, state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pann said at a Covid press briefing.

“We have about 4,000 sites ready to manage and more than 1,000 providers across the state that are registered to vaccinate,” Ban said. “More than 860,000 doses of vaccine have already been ordered.”

Pan said more than 3.5 million children ages 5 to 11 live in California, roughly 9% of the state’s population. Rolling out the vaccine for young children could begin once the director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walinsky, approves the shots, which she is expected to do after the agency’s advisory committee meeting on Tuesday.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Secretary of Public Health and Human Services Agency, said at the press conference that the California Department of Public Health is already working with schools to give the vaccines. Some schools in California are cooperating with pharmacies and other health care providers to distribute the syringes, Ghaly said, adding that he expects more clinics to appear at educational centers in November.

“By the middle of next month, CDPH, working with a lot of local health authorities and other partners, is planning for several school vaccination sites,” Ghaly said.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a vaccine mandate on October 1 for all public elementary school students returning to in-person classes once the Food and Drug Administration issues full approval for each age group. This requirement was the first of its kind nationwide. Pfizer is currently distributing its vaccine under emergency approval. If it gets final regulatory approval before the end of the year, Newsom said it could apply to students over 12 years old on January 1.

Newsom’s plan will unfold in two phases, starting with 12- to 17-year-olds once the FDA clears vaccines for that age group. The order will then be expanded to include children ages 5 to 11, pending FDA approval. The FDA is expected to clear the shots for the younger age group as early as this week with full approval expected to take several months longer. White House officials said the country has a stockpile of doses to immunize all 28 million of the country’s population ages 5 to 11.

If the agency does not fully approve vaccines for those over 12 by the end of the year, Ghali said the start date for authorization will be pushed back from January to July. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fully approved the Pfizer vaccine for everyone 16 years of age or older in August and approved it for emergency use for teens ages 12 to 15 in May. Moderna and J&J vaccines are currently approved for use in adults only.

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