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How western Washington is preparing for kids under 5 to be COVID vaccine-eligible

King County public health is readying resources in the case that vaccine formulas get final sign-off.

SEATTLE — Pediatricians and public health agencies are preparing for the potential availability of COVID-19 vaccinations for children under age 5. 

If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup give their sign-off, vaccines could be available to that age group as early as next week, the Washington State Department of Health said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the first shots for infants and preschoolers Friday.

There are two formulas undergoing the approval process – a three-dose Pfizer set and a two-dose Moderna option.

"I am so excited for families," University of Washington Professor of Pediatrics Dr. Beth Ebel said. "To me, getting vaccinated for your kid means we can get back to normal. I am looking for people to be able to bring their kids to school and daycare, and how many of us put off time between kids and grandparents?"

Ebel said she has heard from parents who have been waiting for this day and from those who are still weighing their options.

"Parents do have questions," Ebel said. "They've read a lot. They've been listening to things from relatives. We love questions – bring it on. The best parents have questions because they care. We're your partner. We're here together with you and your kid to keep him or her healthy their whole life."

Families can visit the Washington Vaccine Locator to learn where to get their child vaccinated, including an option to sort through the list by age group, according to the DOH.

Public Health – Seattle & King County provided this statement with insight from Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin:

We are grateful that we are now one step closer to having safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months to 5 years. With FDA’s authorization on June 17, review of these vaccines will now move on to the CDC and then a panel from the Western States Pact before they are available for King County residents. June 19 is the earliest that we expect that the CDC recommendations and guidance for that age group will be ready, but it could be 1-2 days later.  Vaccine sites will be awaiting supplies and shifting operations to serve the youngest patients, so not all vaccine locations will be ready immediately to give vaccinations to this age group. Vaccination appointments should be available more readily after a couple of weeks.  

“Most children who develop COVID-19 recover uneventfully, but some develop serious illness, complications, and rarely, death,” shares Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County “Children can also develop long COVID, and have their lives and their families disrupted by outbreaks in schools, childcare centers, and other activities.  

“Children 6 months to 4 years have higher emergency department visit and hospitalization rates than older children, the majority of whom have no underlying medical conditions.  In fact, COVID-19 causes more hospitalizations in 6-month-to-4-year-olds than other diseases we routinely immunize young children for, like varicella (chickenpox), hepatitis A, and invasive pneumococcal disease).   

“And even though deaths in young children are relatively uncommon compared to adults, COVID-19 causes more deaths per year in 6-month-to-4-year-olds than many other diseases did before we started vaccinating young children to protect them and is a leading cause of death in 6-month-to-4-year-olds children.” 

We know that many people have been anxiously waiting for these vaccines to be available, including parents who want to take every step possible to protect their family. King County is putting effort towards systems and coordination to make sure that there is access to these vaccines, including working with pediatric providers, schools, and making sure that families and childcare providers have the most up to date information that they need. 

“Vaccines are the single most important way to protect against serious COVID-19,” continues Dr. Jeff Duchin. “Relatively high vaccination rates among older adults have provided tremendous benefit in reducing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths. We are relieved that the benefits of vaccination will now be available to younger children and we look forward to rapid review and recommendations by the CDC'S ACIP so we can begin providing these vaccines in our community as soon as possible.” 

After the CDC recommends the vaccines, parents should check with their child’s pediatrician or clinic, or kingcounty.gov/vaccine, for appointments. Children of this age require a little more time and care to vaccinate, so most vaccinations will be done by appointment only.  

    

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