Oregon Health Authority held its monthly media availability today, providing an update on COVID-19 in Oregon and the status of state and federal reviews taking place through this weekend for vaccines for children under 5 years of age.
Dean Sidelinger, M.D. MSEd, health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA, highlighted the latest data trends, showing that hospitalizations for COVID-19-positive patients in Oregon have hit the peak projected by current modeling and that Oregon still continues to have a high level of community spread.
Sidelinger also provided an update on the next steps in federal and state reviews for authorizing Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 6 months through 4 years of age and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for children 6 months through 5 years of age. He noted that in Oregon, children under 4 were the most hospitalized age group during last winter’s Omicron wave.
Sidelinger was joined by Dawn Nolt, M.D., professor of pediatrics (infectious diseases) in the OHSU School of Medicine, who explained vaccine safety and what Emergency Use Authorization means for this age group, including reduced risk of severe disease.
Nolt emphasized that — as a pediatrician, an infectious disease doctor and parent — her key advice is that children get vaccinated as soon as they can. “Vaccines protect small children, but also protect entire family units, as children can get and spread the coronavirus.”
As early as next week, parents and caregivers may be able to get their youngest children vaccinated against COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee met today, June 15, and recommended approval of emergency use for Moderna and Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccines. Moderna’s application is for vaccinating kids ages 6 months through 5 years, and Pfizer’s is for kids ages 6 months through 4 years.
“The vaccine is an important tool to protect them from the virus. It prevents kids from getting very sick and from spreading it others, both at home, in school and at day care,” said Dr. Kim Bonner, epidemic intelligence service officer for acute and communicable disease prevention with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read on for answers to common questions about vaccinating this age group.
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Garrett (6) and Trenton (9) Schulthies came to the Malheur County after-hours clinic on Wednesday, Nov. 10 to receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which will help protect them against serious illness or death if they contract the virus which causes COVID-19.
Their mom, Lori, received a booster dose at the same time. All three were also inoculated against the flu virus. Lori says the boys lost their grandmother to complications of COVID-19, while two other grandparents and an aunt were hospitalized.
“If we don’t get vaccinated, there’s a way higher chance we could die,” Trenton said, when asked why he chose to be vaccinated. Garrett decided to keep it real when asked the same question: “Mom forced me. I didn’t have a choice.”
Children age 5-11 are now eligible to be protected against the virus that causes COVID-19, after the FDA recently authorized use of a smaller dose for children. Wednesday was the first day the vaccine was available to children at the Malheur County Health Department, and eight children received their first dose that day.
Malheur County has extended its clinic hours on Wednesdays through the end of December, except for the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The clinic, at 1108 SW 4th Ave. in Ontario, will be open to walk-in clients looking for vaccinations from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on those days. Everyone age 5 and up is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, and most adults who received their second dose more than six months ago are eligible for a booster dose.
The county is also hosting drive-through vaccine clinics on two upcoming Saturdays, Nov. 20 and Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Ontario Airport firehouse, 581 SW 33rd St., in Ontario.
Malheur County Health Department has received its first shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses for kids age 5 to 11, and is ready to begin vaccinating children against the virus.
There are multiple options for parents who plan to vaccinate their children; walk-in clinics every Wednesday in November and December (except the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Health Department office, 1108 SW 4th St. in Ontario, or a drive-up clinic Saturday, Nov. 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ontario Municipal Airport firehouse, 581 SW 33rd St., with a second-dose clinic scheduled three weeks later, on Dec. 11, at the same time and location.
Children and adults who come to the Health Department for the vaccine will also be able to receive a flu vaccine, and potentially catch up on other childhood or regular vaccines that are needed.
If the times listed above don’t work for your schedule, you can make an appointment by calling 541-889-7279, or check with your child’s pediatrician or retail pharmacy.
HealthyChildren.org has provided a checklist for parents planning to have their child vaccinated. It can be found here.
Monday, Nov. 1, the FDA authorized use of pediatric doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. That decision was confirmed by a unanimous CDC panel on Tuesday, and again Tuesday evening by the Western States Scientific Safety Workgroup, which confirmed the safety and efficacy of the vaccine for young children. Children ages 5 and older should be vaccinated against COVID-19, but may still have to wait a few days, as shipments of pediatric doses have not yet arrived in Malheur County. In a meeting today, Oregon Health Authority officials reported that the doses should arrive early next week, in time for the next walk-in vaccine clinic at the Malheur County Health Department on Wednesday, Nov. 10, from 1-6 p.m.
Vaccines may also be available at your healthcare provider or pharmacy. We recommend calling first to ensure they have the vaccine in stock and ask if an appointment is needed. Find the list of vaccine providers in the county at malheurhealth.org/covid-19-vaccine. Additionally, vaccine clinics are scheduled at Four Rivers Cultural Center, 676 SW 5th Ave., on Saturday, Nov. 13 and Friday, Dec. 3, hosted by the Oregon Health Authority. Drive-through vaccination clinics at the Ontario Airport Firehouse, 581 SW 33rd St. are scheduled for Saturdays, Nov. 20 and Dec. 11, hosted by Malheur County. Find more information and share the flyers here.
“Vaccination is the single most important and powerful public health intervention in human history. More lives have been saved and more misery averted through vaccination than anything we have ever done,” said Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe. “Along with the many childhood vaccines that prevent disease, we know the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the risks and protect our community, keep our kids in school, and prevent outbreaks.”
The WIC Farmers Market continues Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the front lawn of the Malheur County Health Department building, 1108 SW 4th Street in Ontario. The public is encouraged to support the vendor, as well.
The Farmers Market on the lawn in front of the Health Department at 1108 SW 4th St. continues until 6 p.m. today, and the farmer will return next week to offer fresh fruits and vegetables to anyone who wants them.
Additionally, until 6 today, women who are pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding, and children under 5 can come to the Health Department and receive information about WIC and its healthy benefits for mother and child. Those who are already enrolled are eligible to receive Farm Direct Checks worth $28 for fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers.