COVID vaccines for children approved in Washington state, but rollout could take a few days

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The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 is now approved in Washington state.

This means 680,000 kids statewide are now eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

For parents hoping to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible, don't panic if appointments aren't immediately open. It might take a week or so for doses to be widely available as shipments are arriving in the state the rest of this week.

State health officials asked for patience the next couple of days as providers begin to open up appointments or clinics.

"There will be more than enough vaccine for children in our state," State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah told reporters on Wednesday. "It will just take some time for us to get there."

The Department of Health expects to receive 315,000 doses by next Monday after the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup and the state health department gave the pediatric vaccine the green light.

By end of day Wednesday, state health officials estimate that about 100,000 doses have arrived to providers statewide.

This means families might struggle to find appointments immediately, but in the next couple weeks, clinics and appointments will open up throughout the county.

Pediatricians, health care providers, health districts and schools are working to offer vaccines for kids in the coming weeks. Additionally, pharmacies enrolled in the federal pharmacy program will also have pediatric vaccine doses.

In addition to the doses coming to providers statewide, pharmacies enrolled in the federal pharmacy program will receive about 86,000 doses of the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine through next week as well.

In the meantime, health officials suggested that parents be patient but then find an available vaccine for children by using the state's vaccine locator or calling 833-VAX-HELP.

To find pediatric vaccines in the vaccine locator, be sure to filter by the correct vaccine type, the Pfizer pediatric type, to find locations offering it.

The Pfizer pediatric vaccine is a two-dose vaccine, to be administered three weeks apart.

It is a lower dosage than the Pfizer vaccine approved for those 12  and older, which is why new vials of the vaccine are being shipped to states.

Vaccines for younger children are expected to help curb transmission nationwide in the coming months, as the country and state come down off a delta variant surge.

Despite the decline in cases, Washington state's case counts and hospitalizations are now at the same level as the peak of the winter surge last year.

Additionally, the delta variant has made outbreaks and cases among school-aged children more frequent.

From Oct. 10 to Oct. 24, more than 8,000 cases were confirmed among children and teens ages 0 to 19.

The highest case rates are in northeast Washington state, and in particular, elementary-aged children tested positive more than other age groups, new data from the Department of Health show.

Health officials, as well as major medical organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend all children in this age group receive the vaccine.

While kids typically have milder cases of COVID-19, it is still possible for them to be hospitalized, get long COVID or develop conditions like multi-inflammatory syndrome, which can lead to long-term health problems .

Nationwide, 94 children who are 5 to 11 years old have died from the virus, and more than 8,000 kids in this age group have been hospitalized.

"Not vaccinating is not a risk-free choice," Michele Roberts, assistant secretary of the Department of Health, said. "You're choosing a different set of risks for your child and parents need to understand that. It may not feel like making a choice, but you're really choosing a different set of risks for children to leave them unprotected."

There were no serious side effects reported in the Pfizer trial for the pediatric vaccine, in which 3,000 children were fully vaccinated.

Children might have soreness at the site of injection, a slight fever or headache following vaccination.

Health officials encouraged families with questions about the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine to reach out to their family physician or pediatrician. The Department has also prepared an online resource for families.

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