Mass Vaccination of 5-11 Year Olds Will Look Much Different for LA County

Los Angeles County health officials expect to have child vaccines for hundreds of thousands of the region’s 5 to 11 year olds ready in the first few days of November.

On Tuesday a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine be approved for children via emergency-use authorization, paving the way for regulators to expand access to the vaccine.

The FDA and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention will consider it in the coming days, but they are widely expected to approve the vaccine, opening the door for elementary age children to receive the vaccination.

But, unlike previous efforts to inoculate adults from COVID at pop-up clinics like the massive Dodger Stadium, the county expects the bulk of vaccinations to be handed out at local pharmacies, doctor’s offices, community clinics and school clinics to vaccinate young children.

The Biden administration rolled out a plan earlier this month recommending health officials offer vaccines in locations without the long lines experienced in previous vaccination campaigns to avoid scaring young children. It also encourages settings where parents can speak with a provider about their concerns.

The county has already provided 800 schools with on-site vaccination clinics, and plans on sending out mobile clinics in areas like San Fernando Valley and South L.A. where health care facilities and pharmacies are sparse.

“Many parents have requested that we offer vaccines to children and teens at schools because these are familiar and trusted places,” said L.A. County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer. “School vaccination clinics have already been an important part of our community vaccination strategy.”

Ferrer said the county has pre-ordered 96,000 of the Pfizer vaccines for children expected to arrive by early November. There are about 900,000 eligible children. About 6% of the COVID-19 cases in L.A. are children 5 to 11, according to county health data through Oct. 25.

California mandated vaccinations for children from kindergarten to twelfth grade in early October. Those mandates are contingent on regulators approving the vaccine.

But, the California Department of Public Health has already said it will establish guidelines pending guidance from vaccine partners like the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Children, while historically not a high risk for catching the coronavirus, are still a key demographic for the county to vaccinate. That’s because children spend the bulk of their day at school where they can come in contact with other unvaccinated kids, making them susceptible to catching and spreading the coronavirus.

But some parents have been reluctant to vaccinate their older children who became eligible in September. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found roughly one-third of parents across the country will want to get their young child vaccinated immediately, while one-third said they will “wait and see” and the last third said they will only vaccinate their child if required.

“When it comes to little kids there is a little bit more of the wait-and-see mentality,” said public health expert from USC Rita Burke.