By Andie Lyons, Program Manager – Maternal, Child & Adolescent COVID-19 Vaccine
As a parent of a child under 5, it’s been hard to watch as vaccines for older age groups received authorization and many people ‘moved on’ from the pandemic. For those of us with small children, ‘moving on’ hasn’t been an option.
I am also part of a larger team at Public Health – Seattle & King County that has been planning since December 2021 for COVID-19 vaccines for babies and children under 5. And it has been challenging. Many aspects of planning have evolved over the last 7 months as manufacturers shifted timelines, the FDA scheduled and then cancelled meetings, and the virus changed its course.
And now vaccine for children under 5 is finally just around the corner. We are so excited to serve this important population and finally get shots in the arms (or legs!) of the youngest King County residents.
Federal authorization timeline (as best we know)
The FDA’s expert panel will review the data on the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for infants and young children on June 15. If they authorize them, the vaccines will go through the entire CDC review process and independent review from a panel for the Western States. June 19 is the earliest that we expect that the CDC recommendations and guidance for that age group will be ready, but it could be 1-2 days later.
What we’ve been working on while we wait
We’ve been putting our energy into getting systems and providers ready to serve little ones when the vaccine supplies start arriving.
We aim to:
Make it easier for pediatric providers to get vaccine by:
- Supporting vaccine administration planning. We’re working closely with pediatricians, hospitals, and other clinics serving pediatric patients, as well as the state Department of Health and the Washington chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Readying our regional “vaccine depot.” This depot can quickly distribute supply to smaller clinics who are unable to order or store large quantities of vaccine.
- Helping community health clinics, hospitals and other health care providers close resource gaps that would otherwise prevent them from offering vaccinations to infants and young children.
Make it easier for families to get their children vaccinated by:
- Coordinating school-located vaccine clinics with school districts and early learning organizations.
- Planning community vaccination events across the county. We will publish these events on kingcounty.gov/vaccine after the vaccine has been authorized and vaccine shipment dates are known.
- Finalizing plans to reach homebound children.
Prepare vaccinators to be ready for much younger patients by:
- Ensuring that the Public Health vaccination sites are ready to vaccinate kids under 5. We ‘re fully training our public health staff and completing logistic planning.
- Offering training materials and trainers to vaccinating partners who are less familiar with pediatric vaccinations.
Deliver information and education about vaccine for babies and young children by:
- Updating vaccination information for families, caregivers, childcare providers and early childhood education organizations.
- Scheduling educational sessions to answer community questions.
- Developing and sharing resources, including access points for vaccine, with pediatricians and community partners.
What you can expect
At the heart of all of this planning, we want to ensure that families across the county can protect their children under 5 with COVID-19 vaccine soon after authorization for emergency use occurs. Based on our conversations with providers, health care systems, and other partners, we believe that parents and caregivers should be able to access COVID-19 vaccination at a variety of locations very soon following the authorization.
Availability will also depend on supply and shipment from the federal government. Public Health – Seattle & King County will offer both Moderna and Pfizer if the CDC approves them. We also recognize that supply and shipping can create some small amount of unpredictability and we appreciate patience as this new vaccine supply rolls out.
Please check with your child’s pediatrician or clinic, or our vaccination sites, for appointments once the the FDA authorizes and CDC recommends the vaccines. Children of this age require a little more time and care to vaccinate, so most vaccinations for babies will be done by appointment only. Many pharmacies will not be able to vaccinate babies and very young children, so check ahead before going to a pharmacy.
When the vaccine is authorized and we have updates on where vaccine appointments are available, we will update our website: kingcounty.gov/covid/vaccine.
And when my little ones finally have their vaccinations, I know I’m going to rest better at night. I hope other parents will, too.
Originally published on June 10, 2022.