LOS ANGELES, CA – Pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Los Angeles County Tuesday the same day the CDC approved the shot to 5 to 11-year-olds. The county’s 900,000 children aged 5-11 years. may begin receiving shots as early as Wednesday, the county’s director of public health said.
County officials expect to receive 300,000 doses within the next 10 days, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. There are 900 providers in the county ready to administer the pediatric doses, she added.
“Sites that receive doses today may be able to start vaccinations as early as tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon or Thursday,” Ferrer told the county supervisory board. “We do not expect scarcity and we expect there will be plenty of vaccines to meet the demand,” she said.
It is unclear that demand will exceed supply. Parents were more reluctant to vaccinate their older children than they were to get shots for themselves. According to several national studies, parents say they are even more reluctant to vaccinate young children who are more likely to have asymptomatic or mild disease attacks when infected with coronavirus.
However, health authorities urged parents to protect their children, noting an increase if pediatric COVID admissions during the Delta increase.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the pediatric shots last week, and an advisory committee to the CDC approved them Tuesday morning. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky gave the final approval Tuesday afternoon, making the shots immediately available to those ages 5-11.
The city of Long Beach, which has its own health department separate from the county, will begin offering the pediatric doses from Friday. The city estimates that there are 43,900 children ages 5-11 living in Long Beach.
While the pediatric shots are a lower dose than the adult vaccine, the doses should be given on the same schedule – two shots administered at 21-day intervals. Ferrer noted that children must have a signed consent form from an adult to receive the shot, and some vaccination sites require that they be accompanied by an adult.
The pediatric shots will be offered under an emergency use permit, the same permit granted for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and for the Pfizer vaccine for persons aged 12-15. Pfizer’s vaccine has full federal approval for persons 16 years of age and older.
According to Ferrer, there have been more than 79,000 COVID cases during the pandemic among children ages 5-11 years in the county and one death. About 37,000 cases have occurred in children up to 4 years of age, including one death, and more than 89,000 cases in those aged 12-17, with five deaths.
“In the week ending Oct. 10, 12% of LA County cases were in children ages 5-11, and children in that age group make up 9% of the county’s population,” Ferrer said last week.
Despite federal approval of the shots for children ages 5-11, students in that age group will not be subject to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s student vaccine mandate. The mandate will continue to apply only to students aged 12 and over, requiring them to have at least one dose by 21 November and their second by 19 December.
LAUSD officials issued a statement Tuesday saying the vaccine is “strongly encouraged” for students ages 5-11, and the district will begin offering doses for that age through its mobile clinics on Nov. 8 and through its school-based clinics on nov. 16.
In Los Angeles County, 80% of residents 12 years and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 72% are fully vaccinated, according to the county. Among the county’s total population of 10.3 million people, including those under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible for the shots, 69% have received at least one dose and 61% are fully vaccinated.
Black residents still have the lowest vaccination rates, with only 56% receiving at least one dose. It is comparable to 64% of Latino / A residents, 74% of white residents and 83% of Asians.
Younger black residents have particularly low vaccination rates, with the youngest age group of 43% with at least one dose.
City News Service and Patch employee Paige Austin contributed to this report.