With federal regulators ready to give approval in the coming days, Colorado will receive its first shipment of vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as early as Friday, and the state could begin dosing doses to eligible populations by November. children. 5, officials said Thursday.
Government Jared Polis told reporters the state hopes to vaccinate 50% of this soon-to-be-eligible age group by January 31. The rollout will begin primarily at major venues and events, the governor said, and will move to individual school districts and individual providers in the coming weeks.
“We are now awaiting final approval from[the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]which we expect next week,” the governor said. “As a father of a 10-year-old and a 7-year-old, I am extremely grateful. I know there are many parents who are (lucky) that their children are only weeks away from being protected from this virus.”
There are about 480,000 5-to-11-year-olds in Colorado, said Diana Herrero, a disease control officer with the Department of Health and Environment. The state will receive approximately 171,000 doses of the Pfizer injection in the CDC’s original allotment. The state will have enough doses to meet the new age group, Heather Roth, the health agency’s immunization division, told The Gazette this week. According to its website, the state has already partnered with Children’s Hospital Colorado to offer clinics on Nov. 5.
“I don’t think we’re in a place of supply and demand where we should be rationing vaccines,” Roth said. “We will have enough, even in that first week, to vaccinate anyone who wants one.”
In total, approximately 384 providers statewide will be able to distribute pediatric Pfizer doses once approved and distributed. Every school district in the state has been given the chance to play a role on the board, Polis said, though he didn’t describe how many had taken up that offer.
Roth said the districts’ reactions were “not surprisingly” mixed. How schools should handle the pandemic has been a political lightning rod across the state since the pandemic began. In perhaps the most extreme case, an escalating disagreement over masking in Douglas County has turned the school district against its new health department.
But Polis said the introduction of pediatric vaccines to now cover all school-aged children could give districts that need masks the opportunity to let go of those orders. He said districts that continue to provide vaccines would collect parental consent forms. Although asked about it, he did not address whether pediatric vaccines would ever be necessary.
In an email following the governor’s comments, a Denver Public Schools spokesperson said the district would continue to rely on the advice of its public health experts when determining masking going forward.
The plan as drafted by Polis on Thursday bears some striking similarities to how the vaccine was distributed in the spring, when the entire adult population of the state was eligible. That effort, while much larger in terms of eligible recipients, initially relied on large-scale drive-through events. While pharmacies and individual providers played a role, the state relied more heavily on large parking lots to throw doses into the poor.
As admissions slowed in early summer, the focus shifted and the state began to rely more heavily on individual health care providers — such as primary care physicians — to reach the hesitant.
It appears that the state will follow a similar, albeit much accelerated, track with children. Roth said collaborations with primary care clinics in particular will be much more widespread and significant for children than initially for adults.
The exact details about where clinics are offered or which providers are approved were not provided on Thursday; Officials said further information would be released soon. A list on the health department’s website lists 26 providers currently accepting appointments.
Herrero said the state has partnered with museums, zoos and libraries, among others, to boost adoption among children; the effort will focus on where families are already, she and Polis said. Roth alluded to similar collaborations with the state’s professional sports teams.
While children and adolescents are typically significantly less prone to severe COVID-19 cases than older residents, they are still affected, officials said. During the latest increase, 5- to 17-year-olds have consistently had the highest number of cases; the increase coincided with the return of students to school.
Eric France, the state’s chief physician, told reporters on Thursday that the state had seen a 400% increase in pediatric COVID-19 infections in August and September compared to the previous two months. Lalit Bajaj, a pediatric hospital physician, said the system has treated about 2,000 pediatric COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic.
The spread of COVID-19 among children has consequences beyond the impact on school or on the health of the children.
“Children can take COVID home from school and infect others in the house,” France said.
Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine is one-third the dose given to adults, he said. It is 91% effective at blocking infections and almost completely effective at preventing serious illness. It, like the adult series, is a two-dose regimen three weeks apart.