Local News

NC will have 'plenty of supply' of pediatric coronavirus vaccine

Posted October 27, 2021 10:40 a.m. EDT
Updated October 27, 2021 5:47 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina will have enough pediatric coronavirus vaccine available to start administering shots as soon as federal regulators give final approval for immunizing children ages 5 to 11, state officials said Wednesday.

A Food & Drug Administration advisory panel on Tuesday approved a smaller dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine prevents infection in children in that age group, saying the benefits of receiving the shot outweigh any potential risks.

FDA officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still need to sign off on vaccinating children, but once they do, shots could begin in North Carolina as soon as the end of next week, according to Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The state is expecting to receive 411,000 doses of the pediatric vaccine in three waves over the course of nine business days. That would be enough for almost half of the estimated 892,795 children statewide who would be eligible for vaccination.

"There will be plenty of supply out there," Cohen said at a news conference.

DHHS has lined up more than 750 providers statewide, including pediatrician offices, county health departments and pharmacies, to administer the vaccinations, she said. The department also plans to set up family vaccination sites, she said.

"Getting school-age children vaccinated will help them to be safe in the classroom, play sports, participate in school theater, attend events, be with friends and support their mental health," Cohen said.

Pediatricians are already preparing for a rush as soon as children vaccines get approved. One doctor who expects the vaccine will be in high demand suggested parents call their pediatrician now to schedule an appointment.

Cohen said the state plans to launch a public service campaign to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated, using "trusted messengers" and focusing on the FDA's and CDC's safety findings.

Fifty-five percent of North Carolinians are fully vaccinated, and 59 percent have had at least one dose of the two-dose regimen required for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Cohen and Gov. Roy Cooper credited the slow, but steady, increase in vaccinations for declines in the number of new infections and virus-related hospitalizations in North Carolina.

The state reported another 2,160 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, which is down 17 percent from a week ago, and the rate of positive virus tests continues to hover near the state's 5 percent target rate. About 1,400 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, which is the fewest since Aug. 1.

"North Carolina's fight is not over," Cooper said, urging people to get their shots. "Every unvaccinated person is another foothold allowing the virus to gain strength."

Local doctors are encouraging people to get their flu shot in addition to being vaccinated against coronavirus. Since mask mandates and social distancing have lessened, people are more at risk for the flu this year, experts say.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.