PEORIA, Illinois (WMBD) — Tri-County health leaders say plans are already underway to vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 11 against COVID-19.
This initiative comes after Pfizer announced last month that its vaccine is effective in adolescents in this age group.
During Thursday’s COVID-19 press briefing, Monica Hendrickson, Peoria City/County Public Health Administrator, said hospital systems, federally qualified health centers and local health departments in the area were able to reserve Pfizer vaccines for children on Wednesday.
These pre-orders anticipate Pfizer seeking FDA authorization for its vaccine in this age range.
“This first round, we had a limited number of vaccinations that we could order, and we’re just looking for Peoria County, there’s about 15,000 residents 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 to the schools. However, she said the 5-11 year olds are a different population.
“Not only have we pre-ordered based on our patient population … but we’re also trying to make access as easy as possible,” Overton said. “So we’re planning some events in mid-November where we’re inviting our patients and the public to come in over a weekend.”
Overton said parents are a crucial piece in this puzzle and she wants to make sure their questions can be answered when it comes to the vaccines their children would receive.
She said they are looking at planning two events at their Knoxville location where they will vaccinate every patient in a tri-county on Nov. 13 and 20 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“We’re starting to plan for that and really talk about how these vaccines are different,” Overton said. “This is a different wording, it’s labeled differently, so we’re already starting to educate our mission partners about those differences to make sure we’re doing this as safely and efficiently as possible.”
She said that because of the sensitive nature of vaccinating children, they have tried to provide as much education as possible on the subject.
“I definitely expect some hesitation in the pediatric population, so we’re also working with our Children’s Service Line through the hospital to make sure we get that information in the eyes of the public,” Overton said.
Hendrickson also spoke about 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 at this facility have tested positive for the virus.
“I think this highlights the fact that booster vaccinations are very important,” Hendrickson said. “The population we’re working with was one that was looking for vaccines in the beginning because of their higher risk, and they’re currently vaccinated.”
She said the good news is that these residents do not get serious cases or end up in hospital.
Hendrickson said that once the CDC finalizes its booster recommendations, they can administer booster vaccines to not only Pfizer, but also Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. 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 will probably be able to deliver our first booster Monday morning,” Hendrickson said.
She said she encourages people over 65 to get the booster shot, even if they have to mix with the brands of the original vaccine they received. She said that because of the immunity of this population and the fact that they were one of the first groups to be vaccinated, it is imperative that they get a booster.
“When we think about that six-month period, we’re meeting that figure, if not surpassing it, so if you were in that first phase, please get your booster vaccine,” Hendrickson said. “We’re starting to see more and more of those cases come through, thankfully again we’re not seeing death, we’re not seeing any serious illness, but we want to make sure we don’t, you know, create another unnecessary surge.”