Health officials prepare for rollout of COVID vaccine for kids ages 5-11 - Albuquerque Journal

Health officials prepare for rollout of COVID vaccine for kids ages 5-11

Naira Villa, 13, center, with her mother, Maria Garcia, left, and sister Ali Villa, 4, gets a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shot at the Santa Fe Community College in this September file photo. Federal approval to give vaccine doses to children ages 5 to 11 could be given within the next several weeks. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico is preparing to offer COVID-19 vaccines to children between ages 5 and 11, with the state set to receive 24,600 doses in its initial allotment once the expansion of age eligibility is approved.

A state Department of Health spokesman said Wednesday no vaccine shipments would occur until a federal advisory panel gives emergency authorization for the vaccine to be administered to younger children, which could happen as soon as next week.

Once emergency authorization is made, New Mexico has preordered and is expected to receive 66,000 vaccine doses over three waves, DOH spokesman David Morgan said.

The state does not have an exact timeline for those waves, he added.

Currently, only those age 12 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.

Eligibility was expanded to ages 12 to 15 in May, and 53.8% of New Mexicans ages 12 to 17 had received all doses necessary to be fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, according to DOH data.

Approving the vaccine for younger people has taken more time, as researchers have conducted multiple pediatric trials in recent months to gauge immune system response and possible side effects.

If approved, the Pfizer vaccine for children 5 to 11 would be similar to the adult vaccine but in a much smaller dose – a third of the amount, according to The Associated Press.

Under a plan announced this week by the White House, the vaccine would be available at pediatricians’ offices, pharmacies, health care clinics, and possibly schools and community health centers.

There would also be enough doses available for all 28 million children age 5 to 11 years old nationally, according to President Joe Biden’s administration.

“We’re completing the operational planning to ensure vaccinations for kids ages 5 to 11 are available, easy and convenient,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said. “We’re going to be ready, pending the FDA and CDC decision.”

The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses three weeks apart and a two-week period for full protection to kick in, according to The Associated Press, meaning the first kids in line could be fully covered by Christmas.

In New Mexico, there have been roughly 44,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases involving children under 18 – or 16.5% of all cases – as of this week, according to DOH data.

Children have made up even a higher proportion of cases over the past week, though only 287 kids have been hospitalized in New Mexico since the start of the pandemic – or about 1.6% of all hospitalizations.

Meanwhile, five children have died statewide due to COVID-19, including a 12-year-old Albuquerque boy in November.

New Mexico health officials have said they don’t plan to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for school attendance. The state currently requires immunizations for polio, hepatitis B and several other diseases in order for students to attend schools, though there are some allowable exemptions.

“We will not be moving toward requiring the vaccine,” former Health Secretary Tracie Collins told members of a legislative panel this summer.

Overall, there have been 4,966 deaths related to COVID-19 since the pandemic hit New Mexico in early 2020, after state health officials announced 14 additional deaths Wednesday.

They also reported 630 new cases statewide and 365 hospitalizations – up from 310 a week earlier.

The state Department of Health activated crisis standards of care for its hospital system this week for a second time – the first time was in December 2020 – in order to be able to ration care amid a shortage of intensive care beds and nurses.

Hospital officials have said a mix of COVID-19 patients and those needing treatment for other conditions have swamped many intensive care units in New Mexico, which is also struggling with a nursing shortage that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

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