COVID vaccines for young children are expected soon. Will your pediatrician have them? | State & Regional
Atlantic County health professionals administer COVID-19 vaccinations at Atlantic Cape Community College in Mays Landing in January.
Edward Lea, staff photographer
Jason Laughlin & Maddie Hanna The Philadelphia Inquirer Over a million children ages 5 to 11 in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are expected to qualify for COVID-19 vaccinations within weeks, but many pediatric offices in both states do not yet have the doses.
“I would say we have a little over a month to make sure as many of our pediatric health care providers in our city who want to be involved can be involved,” said Amber Tirmal, immunization program manager for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
Many pediatric offices participate in the federal government’s Vaccines for Children program, which provides doctor’s offices with free doses of vaccine for children who are uninsured or underinsured. Those offices have yet to go through an approval layer to carry COVID-19 vaccines. Statewide, about 62% of the 1,290 pediatric health care providers participating in that federal program are also eligible to provide the COVID-19 vaccine. In Philadelphia, approximately 60% of the 150 participating VFC offices are approved.
Participation in New Jersey is even lower. Fewer than 200 of the 800 pediatric practices participating in VFC are either providing COVID-19 vaccine doses now or will do so in the next two weeks, according to that state’s Department of Health. The state has held conference calls with pediatric vaccine providers, statewide pediatric and immunization societies and other stakeholders to encourage participation, a health ministry spokesman said.
“We’re trying to understand that better now,” said Felicia Taylor, chief executive of the New Jersey division of the American Academy of Pediatrics, of the low enrollment rate for the COVID-19 vaccine. “As part of our organization, we think the best place for children to get vaccinated is in the medical home, in the pediatrician’s office.”