There’s a lot of news about the various approval phases of COVID-19 vaccine, which may cause some confusion about when your child can actually get vaccinated. While on October 26 a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee endorsed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11, you cannot get your kids vaccinated yet. Before you make an appointment for your child’s first vaccination, make sure the vaccine you are seeking is fully authorized and being offered locally.
Vaccine Approval Process for Children Ages 5 to 11
Approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 by federal authorities is expected by early November. As our community waits for this next phase of the ongoing vaccination efforts, it is important to keep in mind that approval of the vaccine for this new age group is a multistep process that may take several days before vaccinations in Loudoun County can begin.
Here are the steps that are required before the Loudoun County Health Department can begin vaccinating children ages 5 to 11:
- A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee already approved the use of a smaller dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11. That’s just the first step. Next, the FDA must approve the Pfizer-BioNTech request for an expansion of the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of its COVID-19 vaccine currently approved for those ages 12 and older. Following FDA approval, additional approval steps are required before Loudoun County can begin vaccinating children ages 5 to 11.
- Following FDA approval, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) must meet to discuss using this vaccine in 5- to 11-year-olds and make a recommendation to the CDC to do so. The ACIP has scheduled an emergency meeting November 2-3, 2021, at which time they will likely recommend the vaccine for this age group. It is not possible to predict how long the ACIP will take to issue its recommendation; however, we can expect an expedited process under the current circumstances.
- Once ACIP makes a recommendation, the CDC director must decide whether to adopt the recommendations. The CDC will likely issue guidance to state health departments regarding the use of this vaccine for the 5- to-11 age group, which will likely occur within 24 hours.
- Finally, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) must decide whether to adopt the CDC recommendation and authorize local health districts like Loudoun, pharmacies and medical offices to begin vaccinating individuals age 5 and older. VDH has been planning for administration of vaccine to this new age group and is expected to adopt the recommendation very soon after the CDC does, likely less than 24 hours after receiving the CDC recommendation.
Things will move rapidly in the coming days. Loudoun County will formally announce when we are able to begin vaccinating this age group. Loudoun County hopes to have authorization to begin vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 by the second week of November.
Vaccine Supply for Children Ages 5 to 11
It’s important to note that the Pfizer vaccine for ages 5 to 11 that is likely to be recommended by the CDC and VDH is a lower dose than is currently used to vaccinate people 12 years and older. As a result, the Pfizer vaccine for this younger age group requires a different formulation. Currently, Loudoun County and other COVID-19 vaccine providers do not yet have children’s vaccine in stock.
The Pfizer vaccine that will be used for 5- to 11-year-olds is the same vaccine given to millions of Americans over the past year, but will be provided in a different formulation due to its lower dosage. Consequently, once vaccination in the 5 to 11 age group is recommended by the CDC and VDH, Loudoun County anticipates that demand for vaccine locally will exceed the available supply. Therefore, it is unlikely that every parent and child who wants a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to get an appointment initially. The county encourages parents to be patient. Vaccine supplies for children ages 5 to 11 are expected to increase throughout November. Parents should continue looking for a vaccination appointment with any COVID-19 vaccine provider until they get one.
Where Do I Get a Vaccine for My Child?
Loudoun County cannot accept appointments to vaccinate anyone under age 12 until after it receives authorization from VDH and until after the county makes an announcement regarding its plans for vaccinating this younger age group.
Once Loudoun County is able to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11, the county will publish an announcement and open up appointments for this age group in the online appointment system for those who want their children vaccinated at the Dulles Town Center location. Individuals must have an appointment in order to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the county’s vaccination site.
Once vaccination appointments for children ages 5 to 11 become available, parents may visit the county’s website to schedule an appointment online: loudoun.gov/covid19vaccine. Follow the steps for scheduling an appointment in the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) for the Dulles Town Center location. Loudoun County plans to have special clinic hours dedicated to vaccinating children under age 12. Appointments for this age group will be clearly labeled when selecting an appointment.
Anyone who needs assistance making an appointment at that time, such as those who do not have access to the internet, should call the COVID-19 Information Line at 703-737-8300, Monday through Friday, between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Children under age 18 must be accompanied to the vaccination appointment by a parent or guardian.
Other COVID-19 Vaccine Providers
The county anticipates that other COVID-19 vaccine providers will also offer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Parents may contact their pediatrician’s office to see if it will be among those that offer COVID-19 vaccine to this age group.
In addition, retail pharmacies, including, but not limited to, CVS, Giant Food, Harris Teeter, Safeway, Walgreens, Walmart and Wegmans, are also expected to offer COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11.
Visit vaccines.gov to find other COVID-19 vaccine providers in our community.
Importance of Vaccinating Children
Public health officials recommend getting children vaccinated as soon as possible once they become eligible. Additionally, booster doses are recommended in accordance with CDC and VDH guidance.
Children ages 5 to 11 currently comprise the bulk of COVID-19 cases in Loudoun County children. Vaccinating children will help to further slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community, improve the safety of the school environment and ultimately bring an end to the pandemic. Vaccinating children and getting boosters in recommended groups is particularly important as we enter the cold weather season when people tend to gather indoors more, and as we approach the holiday season, which also often includes gatherings of people indoors.
Learn more about protecting yourself, your family and the community during holiday celebrations by visiting the CDC’s website.
Vaccine Safety and Efficacy
COVID-19 vaccines continue to be safe and effective. New vaccines are typically studied in adults first, and then gradually include younger age groups. This is a standardized process intended to study a new vaccine in the safest way possible. The request for expansion of the EUA is based on data from a clinical trial of 2,268 participants who were 5 to 12 years of age that showed that the vaccine was safe and effective in this age group.
Learn more about the safety of COVID-19 vaccine on the CDC’s website.
Who’s Currently Eligible for a COVID-19 Vaccine?
Loudoun County announced that beginning October 23, it would begin offering all three types of COVID-19 vaccine boosters to eligible groups. Currently eligible groups for COVID-19 boosters include all individuals who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago, and all individuals 65 and older and those 18 and older with underlying medical conditions and jobs that increase potential exposure to COVID-19 who received the second in a two-dose series of Pfizer and Modera vaccine at least six months ago.
For more information about who is currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, including boosters, visit the VDH website.
For additional information about COVID-19, visit loudoun.gov/coronavirus. Anyone with questions may call the Health Department's information line at 703-737-8300, or send an email to the Health Department.
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