Vaccination

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has received CDC and FDA approval for emergency use in children age 5-11.

Jessica Loewen has been waiting months for the news that came Tuesday. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in children age 5-11. It's the first coronavirus vaccine available to kids under 12. And Loewen wasted no time trying to track down doses for her three kids.

“When I saw the authorization go through, I started calling today,” Loewen said on Wednesday. “When we got our adult vaccines, I chased it down and got the first appointments I could in Webster City. I’ll be checking websites now like I did then for appointment times.

“We’ve known a lot of people recently who’ve started contracting it, so it’s coming a lot closer," she added.

On Tuesday, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that children 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. Last week, a panel at the FDA issued a similar approval. The CDC reports that there are about 28 million children in the U.S. who are 5 to 11 years old and are now eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The scramble to find vaccine doses – a phenomena that materialized earlier this year and dissipated as the shots became more plentiful – is back, but vaccine administrators are just as unsure now as they were then about when they’ll have doses for Hardin County area kids and how they may be rolled out.

Employees who answered the phone at the HyVee and Walmart pharmacies on Wednesday said they had not received pediatric doses of the vaccine and they weren’t sure when they will get them. Clinic Pharmacy in Iowa Falls, which has also been administering vaccines this year, only has the Moderna vaccine, which is not available to people younger than 18.

Hardin County Public Health Coordinator Rocky Reents said the phones at Greenbelt Home Care were strangely quiet Wednesday morning, even as she was working to determine the best way to roll out the vaccine – after it arrives here, that is. Initial guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health suggested the doses be distributed through medical clinics, but Reents said she’s not sure whether that’s how it will be done here.

While other counties – Johnson and Linn in eastern Iowa, for example – reported receiving the shots on Tuesday and Wednesday and had already scheduled vaccination clinics, Reents said she didn’t expect Hardin County to get any shipments until later this week or sometime next week.

“We had to preorder last week, so I think we should be getting 300 doses,” Reents said. “I don’t know if they’re prioritizing larger counties first. I’ve not received any shipments.”

Just as with the adult doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the pediatric doses will be administered in a two-shot series three weeks apart.

Loewen said her kids are ready to receive the shots – even if that’s not something kids usually look forward to.

“My son is very adamant about it,” she said. “He wears his mask every day and he’s super worried about getting it. He will actually be very excited.”

While the shots won’t necessarily change the Loewen family’s behaviors – they’ve avoided indoor gatherings with other people and the adults, who are vaccinated, still wear masks when they’re out and about – Jessica said it will relieve some of the worry they’ve felt.

“I’m ready for this to be over,” she said, “and I’m ready to get my kids vaccinated.”

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