Young children now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Children age 6 months to 5 years may now receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Oregon, after a flurry of weekend activity to approve Emergency Use Authorization for the vaccine. While children could begin to receive the vaccine as early as today (Monday, June 20, 2022), most providers won’t have vaccine in their office, so please contact your provider before taking your child to get a vaccine. Some providers will receive vaccine shipments today, while others won’t have their shipments until later this week, or even after that.

Approval of the vaccine followed the usual protocol, with an FDA committee finding that the benefits of either the two-dose Moderna COVID-19 vaccine series for infants age 6 months through 5 years, or the three-dose Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for infants and children 6 months through 4 years of age substantially outweigh any known or likely risks. Later, the full FDA endorsed the recommendation, and over the weekend, it was endorsed by the CDC, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, on which Oregon relies for such decisions.

Having your child vaccinated against COVID-19 will help keep them from becoming severely ill with the virus, and help keep them from spreading it to others.

Parents with questions are encouraged to talk to their child’s health care provider to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and the importance of keeping children up-to-date with all the recommended vaccinations.

Some tips for parents of young children being vaccinated are here.

Answering questions about vaccinating your children

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.

Booster doses for 5-to-11-year-olds available Wednesday

Children age 5-11 are now eligible for a COVID-19 booster, which will be available Wednesday during the Malheur County Health Department’s Walk-in Wednesday clinic, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Wednesday.

  • Children ages 5-11 who are not immunocompromised should get a booster dose at least five months after receiving the second dose in their primary vaccine series.
  • Children ages 5-11 who are immunocompromised and have received their third primary series dose, should get a booster dose at least three months after receiving the third dose in their primary vaccine series.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, 401 children age 5-11 in Malheur County have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, of 2,875 children of that age living in the county.

“Boosters are especially likely to benefit children who are at high risk for severe disease,” said Paul Cieslak, medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at OHA. “Boosters may also prevent children from spreading the virus to loved ones who are at high risk.”

Since the start of the pandemic, 15,000 children ages 5 through 11 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S., and more than 180 have died. Booster doses restore the immune system and extend protection from COVID-19 infection and severe illness.

“With more than 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky.

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are safe and effective for children

The effectiveness of the two-dose series in preventing infection from the Omicron variant wanes over a few months. Boosters were shown to increase antibodies against Omicron in children 5-11 years of age to 36 times the level they had after the second dose.

“Most important, though, is to get that primary series into kids who haven’t had it yet,” said Cieslak.

Vaccination is the best way to protect children from severe illness and the long-term effects of COVID-19 that are still not fully understood.

If you have any questions about COVID-19 vaccines or boosters for children ages 5 through 11, please submit them here. The OHA is unable to answer every question, but will try to answer those that will inform a wide audience. Additionally, the FDA is expected to meet next month to review requests from Moderna and Pfizer to authorize their COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old. Feel free to submit questions about that as well.

Drive through vaccine event is Saturday

The Malheur County ICS team will host a drive-through vaccine clinic for COVID-19 vaccinations Saturday, Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ontario Municipal Airport firehouse, 3288 SW 4th Ave., in Ontario.

For the COVID-19 vaccine, all three brands are available, and all doses, including pediatric doses for children ages 5-11.

Every person who receives a COVID-19 vaccination will receive a gift card. Any vaccinated person who brings an unvaccinated person for their first dose will also receive a gift card. More information can be found here.

Bring a friend to get vaccinated, get a gift card

Saturday, Nov. 20, if a vaccinated person brings an unvaccinated friend or family member to the MCHD vaccine clinic at the Ontario Municipal Airport firehouse, both will receive a gift card after the vaccine is given. There is no limit to the number of people a vaccinated person can bring to the event.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the airport firehouse, 3288 SW 4th Ave., in Ontario. Booster doses, first, second and third doses, and doses for children age 5-11 will be available.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is available to anyone ages 5 and older. If you’re unsure whether your child should receive a vaccine, talk to their pediatrician.

There is so much misinformation right now about COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC has put together some helpful information about how to find credible vaccine information. That can be found here.

The CDC also addresses some myths about the COVID-19 vaccines. For instance: “Are all events reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) caused by vaccination?” “No.” The full fact sheet can be found here.

Boys get vaccinated in memory of grandmother

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.

Do you have questions about vaccinating your child against COVID-19?

If you have questions about the new pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children age 5-11, you are not alone. Some of your questions may be answered by this Frequently Asked Questions document compiled by the Oregon Health Authority.

If your questions are about vaccinating a 12-17-year-old, there are some answers here.

Malheur County Health Department has extended clinic hours Wednesdays during November and December (excluding the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas) to offer walk-in COVID-19 and flu vaccines. The clinic, at 1108 SW 4th St. in Ontario, will be open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on those days, and those who want them can receive a flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. The county will also host two Saturday drive-through vaccine clinics at the Ontario Airport firehouse, 581 SW 33rd St., from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 20 and Dec. 11. Gift cards will be made available to people who receive COVID-19 vaccines at these events.

FDA, CDC, authorize pediatric COVID-19 doses

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.”

Pediatric COVID-19 vaccine making its way to Oregon

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine to include children ages 5 to 11.

The FDA overwhelming voted to support vaccinating younger children and offered these key points for parents and caregivers to consider:

• Effectiveness

o The immune response of children 5-11 years old was comparable to that of teenagers and young adults 16-25 years old.

o The vaccine was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages 5 -11.

• Safety

o The vaccine’s safety was studied in approximately 3,100 children ages 5-11. No serious side effects were detected in the ongoing study.

Deciding whether to vaccinate a child in your care may not be easy. Malheur County Health Department encourages you to talk with your provider to get your questions answered.

What’s next? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet this week to discuss further clinical recommendations, once those recommendations are made, the Western States Scientific Study Review Workgroup will meet to make a recommendation. We expect these steps to be implemented in the next couple of weeks, and then Gov. Brown will authorize use of pediatric COVID-19 doses in Oregon. The Oregon Health Authority, and MCHD, will be prepared to offer doses to children 5-11 shortly thereafter, as will physician’s offices, clinics and pharmacies in the Treasure Valley. Contact your provider to discuss whether the vaccination will benefit your child. More information on the process of approving vaccines in Oregon can be found here.

Flow chart that visually represents and summarizes the information described in this article.