Local health care providers started vaccinating children ages five to 11 against COVID-19 on Monday, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the vaccine had met safety and efficacy standards in a clinical trial with about 3,000 children. The authorization is only for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Neither the AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine are approved for children, and no vaccine is yet approved for children under five.
In May the FDA approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12–17-year-olds. In Oregon 57.8% of 12–17-year-olds have gotten at least one shot of the vaccine. Over 77% of adults have gotten at least one shot in data last updated on Nov. 5. Just 634 children under 12 have initiated the vaccine process statewide as of this writing. The Mayo Clinic reported that the infectiousness of the Delta variant and uncertainty over how long natural immunity lasts has made it unclear when herd immunity would be reached with vaccination trend.
Public officials say that vaccination is the key to overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic and welcomed its availability to children.
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- Children over five are now approved to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
In Deschutes County the vaccine is available to students through primary health care providers and other clinics.
“If your child is comfortable and familiar with a local health care provider, a good place to start is to reach out to that provider to make a vaccine appointment or to stop by your school-based health center,” said Tamarra Harris, Pediatric Program Manager at Mosaic Medical in a press release. “Now that every school-aged child can be vaccinated against COVID-19, we are excited to bring a sense of relief to many parents and guardians, and those who work in education and child care.”
The option for children to get vaccinated could allow school districts to return to more typical school year for the students without distance learning and masking.
“I continue to be impressed by our local medical community and their willingness to step up and create opportunities to help during this pandemic. I believe by offering so many local vaccine opportunities, families will have a wide range of options that fit their location and timing needs for their young students,” said Dr. Steven Cook, superintendent of Bend-La Pine Schools. “Vaccinating this key youth demographic is one more step in helping make our community safer, keeping our schools open for in-person instruction, and putting an end to the pandemic.”
Officials also implemented greater testing capacity this past week. On Nov. 4, Deschutes County Health Services, Central Oregon Community College and the Oregon Health Authority partnered to provide free rapid PCR testing in Oregon at COCC’s Redmond campus. These tests give results in one to two hours, and appointments can be made online or by calling 541-699-5109.
“COVID-19 testing is one of several important tools we have to reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19 in our communities, along with vaccines, masking, social distancing and washing our hands,” said Dr. Laurie Chesley, president of COCC. “COCC is proud to once again partner with Deschutes County Health Services and the Oregon Health Authority to ensure testing is widely accessible to all Central Oregonians. Our campuses are always available to support public health initiatives.”