Editors Note: As of June 23, The Brazos County Health District has begun administering free COVID-19 Vaccines for Children ages 6 months to 5 years old.
While the Food and Drug Administration and the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have approved the youngest age bracket of the American population for vaccination against COVID-19, the Brazos County Health District is still waiting for approval from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“Unfortunately, because we have not yet received a standing delegated order from the state, we can not give out vaccines [for children 6 months to 5 years old] at this time,” said Mary Parrish, a workforce development coordinator for the Brazos County Health District.
Parrish said the Brazos County Health District likely will receive authorization in the next few days.
Texas A&M, however, announced Tuesday night it received authorization and will be doling out free vaccines for children under 5 starting at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Moore-Connally Building.
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A parent or guardian must be present to administer the vaccine to a child. The vaccinations will be administered by pediatric nurses from the Texas A&M University Health Science Center. The clinic also will offer booster shots for those previously vaccinated.
On Saturday, CDC director Rochelle P. Walensky endorsed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation to allow all children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years to receive either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Children taking Moderna would receive two primary series doses while those who taking Pfizer would receive three primary series doses.
According to the vaccines.gov website, as of Tuesday, the closest location to Brazos County offering vaccines for the youngest age group is 68 miles away at Phoenix Drugstore and Medical Supplies at 17320 Red Oak Drive in Houston. The vaccine.gov website is updated daily to reflect the most up-to-date vaccination sites by location and age.
Dr. Peter Hotez, the co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and professor of pediatrics and molecular virology at Baylor College of Medicine, said young children are still at risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19.
“Over the pandemic around 20,000 kids between 6 months and 5 years of age have been hospitalized [resulting in] 200 deaths,” Hotez said.
Hotez, who is also a fellow with the Hager Institute of Advanced Studies at Texas A&M and a Senior Fellow of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at the Bush School, said parents who may have concerns about the vaccine aren’t alone.
“Unfortunately only about 30% of parents have agreed to vaccinate their 5-to-11 year olds and in many southern states it’s only around 11%,” Hotez said. “The studies are robust. They’ve shown that the vaccine is both immunogenic and protective. Your child is at risk and you should take advantage of having the vaccine available.”
While he said he hopes these numbers will go up over time as did the vaccination rate of adults, it may be a hard sell, Hotez said.
“We’re hoping for the best, but it’s unclear how widely accepted this is going to be,” Hotez said.
The CDC website nor a press release issued by the organization lists the efficacy rate of the children’s vaccine.
Hotez said he recommends that parents contact their local pediatrician’s office to see when they will begin offering the vaccine.
“I think probably a lot of the vaccine is going to be given through pediatrician’s offices because kids of that age group often will get immunized in the pediatrician’s office,” Hotez said. “So it could be that some of the doses are first going to pediatrician’s offices rather than the pharmacies.”
It is unclear whether these vaccines will provide children with the same length of immunization as adults, Hotez said.
“I don’t know that we have the data [for] lasting immunity, but hopefully it’ll last a little longer than it does in adults,” Hotez said.
If the pandemic continues, Hotez said young children may become eligible for a booster shot.
“I think it’s quite possible … really depends on how much transmission there is as we head into the fall,” Hotez said.
Parrish said even if parents think their child already has had COVID-19, it is still best to get them vaccinated.
“It is very important for children who’ve had it [COVID-19] in the past to still get vaccinated because vaccination increases their immunity,” Parrish said. “So think of it kind of like playing football in that if you go out with a set of chest pads that’s great, but you can still get pretty hurt if you don’t have your helmet on.”
When the vaccine was first approved for other young age groups, Parrish said they saw a spike in the vaccination rate, but unfortunately it has plateaued.
Parrish also said that even though the vaccines have been shown to be less effective in children, parents should still have their kids vaccinated.
“The main hypothesis is that it just has to do with the child’s developing immune system,” Parrish said. “And that for some reason in a child’s immune system it doesn’t build up antibodies as well as natural infection. However, we still highly suggest getting vaccinated.”