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DHHS gives pediatricians, health departments first shot at COVID vaccine for children

Posted October 19, 2021 2:15 p.m. EDT
Updated October 19, 2021 6:46 p.m. EDT

— Scores of pediatrics offices across North Carolina could be part of "Wave 1" in the state's effort to vaccinate children against coronavirus.

The state Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday sent notices to more than 230 providers statewide, including county health departments and pharmacies, as well as pediatricians, asking them whether they want to take part in the initial push to immunize children ages 5 to 11.

Federal regulators will meet in the next two weeks and could grant emergency authorization to give Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine to children. If approved, DHHS officials said, North Carolina providers could start giving shots shortly after Nov. 3.

Pediatric vaccine providers in central NC

This is a preliminary list of providers that could take part in the initial wave of administering coronavirus vaccinations to children ages 5 to 11.

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N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

North Carolina will receive 124,500 doses of the pediatric vaccine in what's been dubbed "Wave 1." DHHS has divvied the shipment up among the preliminary list of providers in multiples of 300 doses.

"Getting kids vaccinated quickly and equitably is our goal," DHHS officials said in the notice. "Please accept only what you need and use what you order. In the coming weeks, if excess vaccine accumulates at a provider, we may transfer vaccine from one provider to another to meet demand. You will be eligible to reorder more pediatric vaccine once you have administered at least 70% of your pediatric Pfizer inventory."

The Jeffers, Mann and Artman pediatric practice expects to receive 900 doses for its offices in Raleigh and Clayton, and officials there said they plan to give priority to children with health conditions that put them at higher risk if they contract COVID-19.

"We’re in the middle of vaccinating children against flu, so it is going to be a burden and a very heavy lift for some offices to do both flu vaccine and COVID vaccine," Dr. Larry Mann said, adding that many parents have told him they want to vaccinate their children as soon as possible.

"For the vulnerable population, for older adults and just our whole community to get back to normal life, it’s going to be very important to vaccinate the children," Mann said.

Wake County Public Health is finalizing plans for special children-only days at the vaccination clinics the county runs.

Steve Adkins, the owner of Health Park Pharmacy, in Raleigh, said he will open the vaccine clinic space the pharmacy set up in February so parents can make appointments for their children.

"I think they’re going to be chomping at the bit to get those children safe," Adkins said. "I think most parents were anticipating having access prior to school starting this fall, and that’s what we were hoping as well. ... [But] the government was trying to be extra cautious."

The clinic can vaccinate more than 1,000 people a day, he said, but Health Park is set to receive only 900 doses in Wave 1.

"We just try to make it as easy and convenient for folks as possible, but also make sure we have sufficient doses to go around," he said.

Pfizer's adult vaccine cannot be used on children, officials noted, as the children receive a smaller dose that has been formulated differently. The new formulation means that providers don't have to have the ultra-cold freezers required for Pfizer's adult vaccine. The children's vaccine can be stored in an ordinary freezer for up to 10 weeks, officials said.

"Other active COVID-19 vaccine providers in our state will have the opportunity to request pediatric vaccine in Waves 2 and 3 from a pool estimated to ship shortly after Wave 1," DHHS officials said.

Mann reminded parents that the vaccination process will take time and resources, just like when they got their shots earlier this year.

"We can’t immunize every single one of our 5- to 11-year-olds in one day. It’s going to take the whole community to pull together," he said.

Because the list of providers administering the shots will likely be fluid, DHHS officials said the best way for parents and families to find a nearby location will be to visit MySpot.nc.gov or call 888-675-4567 toll free. People also can text their ZIP code to 438829 to find vaccine locations near them.

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