With authorization of COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 imminent, the county has scheduled multiple vaccine clinics at schools throughout the county beginning later this week and the county’s health officer is urging parents to take advantage of them.
The vaccine can’t come soon enough for many parents, given rising case rates in that age group. Children ages 6 to 11 currently have the highest case rate in the county, according to Dr. Aimee Sisson.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee began meeting Tuesday and is expected to recommend the Pfizer shots for children 5 to 11, possibly on Wednesday. Once the CDC’s director weighs in, followed by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, shots could be available to children as early as Thursday.
The Winters Joint Unified School District is partnering with Winters Healthcare to provide vaccinations for school children.
Yolo County has even scheduled a vaccine clinic at Elkhorn Village Elementary School in West Sacramento on Thursday. School site clinics in Davis begin next week with a clinic for all students on Tuesday. Other county clinics are scheduled at elementary schools in Woodland, Esparto and West Sacramento.
The vaccine expected to be authorized for children ages 5 to 11 this week is a 10-microgram Pfizer dose followed by a second shot three weeks after the first. In addition to the county’s public health department, local healthcare providers are also receiving shipments of the vaccine this week and pharmacies will have them available as well.
The county health department will receive an initial shipment of 4,500 doses, according to Sisson.
“We don’t know what the demand is going to be in our pediatric population but I think that we will have sufficient supply to meet the demand of that first week,” Sisson said during an online vaccine forum Monday evening. “We also know there will be more doses coming in subsequent weeks so if demand is high — and I hope that it is — and it exceeds the 4,500 doses that we have available, and the additional doses that other providers have available, then people can wait until the following week to get vaccinated because we will be re-supplied.”
Sisson expressed hope that making the vaccine available to another age group will improve vaccination rates in the county.
Currently the percentage of all residents fully vaccinated ranges from a high of 74 percent in the city of Davis to a low of 50 percent in Esparto. In between are Winters at an estimated 53 percent; West Sacramento at 57 percent; and Woodland at 68 percent.
Numbers continue to lag among children and teens.
The data is skewed somewhat as the county only has age breakdowns for a group that includes 10-year-olds through 19-year-olds and children under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated.
That said, 32 percent of 10- to 19-year-olds in Esparto are fully vaccinated, the lowest rate in the county, while 55 percent in Woodland are, the highest rate.
In between are Davis (46 percent); Winters (47 percent); and West Sacramento (48 percent).
Sisson noted that children infected with COVID-19 tend to have less severe disease, are less likely to end up in the hospital and far less likely to die from the virus than adults.
Across the country, 791 children under 18 have died from COVID-19, 172 of them ages 5 to 11, Sisson said.
However, she said, “deaths and hospitalizations are not the only bad outcomes to be avoided when it comes to COVID-19.
“There are many other things we worry about for our children,” she said. “One of them, when it comes to COVID, is this multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).”
MIS-C is a severe inflammatory disease that occurs two to six weeks after infection in children “and 60 to 70 percent of children who are affected by MIS-C end up needing hospitalization in the intensive care unit,” Sisson said.
More than 5,000 cases of MIS-C have occurred in the United States during the pandemic, including 660 in California.
In addition to MIS-C, health officials also worry about the impact of long COVID in children.
“We also see a significant portion of children who take a long time to recover from their COVID-19 disease,” Sisson said.
A large study out of the UK showed approximately eight percent of children infected with COVID-19 have symptoms more than three months after their initial diagnosis, Sisson said.
“And those symptoms include fatigue, headache, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, muscle and joint pain and cough.
“So you can see even though children may not end up in the hospital or dying from COVID, there is still significant illness to be prevented among our children when it comes to COVID-19,” Sisson said.
During Monday evening’s forum, Sisson addressed a number of questions members of the public had about the vaccine and stressed its safety and efficacy in children.
In randomized clinical trials in the United States, Finland, Poland and Spain, the Pfizer vaccine was given to 3,109 5- to 11-year-olds, according to Sisson. Another 1,539 children received placebos.
The dose was one-third the size of that given to those ages 12 and up with a second dose given three weeks later.
Children 5 to 11 who received the vaccine showed antibody response similar to 16- to 25-year-olds, Sisson said, and the vaccine proved 90.7 percent effective against symptomatic infection.
Mild side effects were common and included soreness at the injection site, fatigue and headache, she said, and no cases of myocarditis or pericarditis were observed.
One question many parents have had is about the smaller Pfizer dose, given the differences in size among children and particularly when it comes to 11-year-olds on the cusp of turning 12.
“We know that children do not all come in one size and we certainly have differences in weight,” Sisson said.
However, she noted, that’s no different from everyone ages 12 and up getting the same 30 microgram dose “with weights ranging anywhere from less than 100 pounds to 600 pounds.”
The process for younger children receiving the vaccine will be similar to that of teens and adults, with a 15-minute observation period required to monitor for allergic reactions. Children with previous reactions to vaccinations or severe food allergies will be observed for 30 minutes, as is the case for those 12 and up.
On average, when individuals have had allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine they occurred within 13 minutes after the shot was administered.
Once full authorization for the child vaccine is complete, Yolo County residents will able to schedule appointments via MyTurn.ca.gov, including appointments at local school sites.
‘We expect this approval to come through by the end of this week, potentially as early as Thursday,” Sisson said.
Sisson added that while she is not mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for Yolo County school children and any mandate would come from the state, “I do strongly recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for anybody who is eligible, including children.”