Tri-county health leaders pre-order Pfizer pediatric vaccines in preparation for kids ages 5-11

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Tri-County health leaders say there are already plans in motion to start vaccinating children in the 5 to 11 age range against COVID-19.

This initiative comes after Pfizer announced its vaccine is effective in adolescents in this age group last month.

During Thursday’s COVID-19 press briefing, Monica Hendrickson, Peoria City/County Public Health Administrator, said the area’s hospital systems, federally qualified health centers, and local health departments were able to pre-order Pfizer pediatric vaccines on Wednesday.

These pre-orders come ahead of Pfizer looking to get FDA authorization for its vaccine in this age range.

“This first go-round we had a limited number of vaccinations that we could order, and we are looking for, Peoria County alone, there are 15,000 residents approximately that are ages 5-11,” Hendrickson said.

Sarah Overton, Chief Nursing Officer at OSF HealthCare, said they initially vaccinated 12-16 year-olds in their clinics before moving into the schools. However, she said the 5-11-year-olds are a different population.

“Not only did we pre-order based on our patient population … but we’re also trying to ease access as much as possible,” Overton said. “So, we are planning some events in mid-November in where we’re inviting our patients and the public to be able to come in on a weekend.”

Overton said parents are a critical piece in this puzzle, and she wants to ensure they’re able to get their questions answered when it comes to the vaccines their children would get.

She said they’re looking at planning two events at their Knoxville location where they’ll vaccinate any tri-county patient on Nov. 13 and Nov. 20 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

“We’re starting to begin planning on that and also really talking about how these vaccines are different,” Overton said. “This is a different formulation, it has a different label cap, so we’re already starting to educate our mission partners about those differences to make sure that we’re doing this as safely and as efficiently as possible.”

She said due to the sensitive nature of vaccinating children, they’ve been trying to provide as much education as they can on the topic.

“I definitely anticipate some hesitancy in the pediatric population, so we’re also working with our Children’s Service Line through the hospital to make sure we’re getting that information out and in the public’s eyes,” Overton said.

Hendrickson also touched on COVID-19 booster shots for the area. She said Grandview Memorial Care in Peoria County is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak and said about 20 residents in this facility have tested positive for the virus.

“I think this highlights the fact that booster vaccinations are very important,” Hendrickson said. “The population that we’re working with was one that was on the initial drive to get vaccines early on because of their higher risk, and they are currently vaccinated.”

She said the good news is these residents aren’t getting severe cases or ending up in the hospital.

Hendrickson said once the CDC finalizes its recommendations for boosters, they’ll be able to administer not only Pfizer but Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster vaccines. But she said it wouldn’t be an immediate transition.

“Realistically, I can speak on behalf of the health department, even if the announcement is made tonight we’re most likely going to be able to give our first booster on Monday morning,” Hendrickson said.

She said she’s encouraging those 65 and older to get the booster shot, even if they have to mix match the brands from the original vaccine they received. She said due to this population’s immunity and the fact that they were one of the first groups vaccinated, it’s imperative they get a booster.

“Thinking of that six-month period, we’re hitting that mark if not surpassing it, so if you were in that first phase, please, please get your booster vaccine,” Hendrickson said. “We’re starting to see more and more of those cases come through, again luckily we’re not seeing death, we’re not seeing severe illness, but we want to make sure that we’re not, you know, creating another unnecessary surge.”

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