COVID vaccines for kids ages 5-11 could start next week in CT, DPH says

Photo of Jordan Fenster
This October 2021 photo provided by Pfizer shows boxes of kid-size doses of its COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. moved a step closer to expanding vaccinations for millions more children as a panel of government advisers on Tuesday, Oct. 26, endorsed kid-size doses of Pfizer's shots for 5- to 11-year-olds. (Pfizer via AP)

This October 2021 photo provided by Pfizer shows boxes of kid-size doses of its COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. moved a step closer to expanding vaccinations for millions more children as a panel of government advisers on Tuesday, Oct. 26, endorsed kid-size doses of Pfizer's shots for 5- to 11-year-olds. (Pfizer via AP)

Associated Press

COVID vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11 are expected to begin as soon as next week in Connecticut, according to the state Department of Public Health.

In anticipation, Yale New Haven Health, one of the state’s largest vaccine providers, will shift away from adults and focus on child vaccinations.

“The vast majority of vaccine sites will switch over to pediatrics,” said Ohm Deshpande, associate chief clinical officer at Yale New Haven Health. “It’s most important for us to focus on the unvaccinated patients and that’s pediatrics. We’re reacting to where we see the greatest need.”

The Food and Drug Administration’s independent advisory group Tuesday recommended that Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine be made available to children ages 5 to 11 under an emergency use authorization.

The endorsement from the advisory group is one of the first regulatory hurdles before the vaccine can be administered to children in this age group. The FDA must next approve those recommendations and issue the EUA.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is scheduled to meet Nov. 2 and 3 to issue its own recommendations. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky must then give her own approval.

“As soon as that happens, then the shipments can begin,” Deshpande said. “I think Pfizer does have that supply ready.”

Should all those recommendations and approvals happen as expected, Connecticut’s health department expects administration of COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5 to 11 will begin on Nov. 4.

Eric Arlia, senior director of pharmacy for Hartford HealthCare, said based on the FDA advisory board’s decisions, those approvals seem likely.

“The fact that it was unanimous is a strong indicator to me that it has a degree of confidence,” he said.

Connecticut has already started ordering vaccine doses specially formulated for younger children, beginning with an initial order of 39,000 doses and rising to 150,000 over the coming weeks, DPH spokesperson Chris Boyle said last week.

The state has estimated there are about 278,000 children between the ages of 5 and 11 in Connecticut.

As Connecticut’s COVID hospitalizations dropped by eight patients Wednesday to 194 — the lowest since early August — and the state reported a daily positivity rate of 1.62 percent, vaccine providers said they haven’t yet received the children’s doses to administer.

Arlia suggested Nov. 4 “would be the first possible day” shots could be administered to children younger than 12, “assuming that we get our supply before the fourth.”

Those doses will be available at several locations, including pharmacies, in-school vaccine clinics and some pediatricians.

“Hundreds of pediatricians will be administering COVID-19 vaccines across the state of Connecticut,” DPH said in a release. “However, not all pediatricians will have the COVID-19 vaccine.”

There are, however, some challenges to overcome before pediatricians can begin vaccinating children, Deshpande said.

“It’s evident that there are some logistical challenges that are not making it easy for pediatricians to be the primary way for vaccines to be distributed,” he said.

Arlia said part of what makes it possible for pediatric offices to administer the COVID-19 vaccine is the way the formulation is packaged.

The vaccine intended for adults initially came in packages containing 1,170 doses, and required ultra-low temperatures, which Arlia said, “was very, very difficult, not very practical for any medical office.”

The version intended for children is delivered in 300-dose packages and can be refrigerated at normal temperatures for 70 days, Arlia said.

“We will break it up for them if they prefer to have less in their refrigerator,” Arlia said, though he expects “a lot of pediatricians will take that box of 300.”

Arlia said that function puts providers like Hartford HealthCare in the position of being a distributor.

“This is the nitty gritty of pharmacy and logistics,” he said. “I’ve never been part of anything like this in my life.”