Expect limited supply when COVID vaccine rolls out for kids age 5-11, Juneau officials say

Capital City Fire/Rescue career staff assemble for a pop-up clinic for COVID-19 vaccinations at the downtown fire station in Juneau on Dec. 17, 2020.
Capital City Fire/Rescue career staff assemble for a pop-up clinic for COVID-19 vaccinations at the downtown fire station in Juneau on Dec. 17, 2020. The vials of vaccine must be diluted with saline before injection. (Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Updated — Wednesday, Oct. 20, 12:30 p.m.

Juneau officials say local COVID-19 numbers are still bad.

The delta variant-fueled wave had shown signs of falling a week ago. But during the COVID community update on Tuesday, City Manager Rorie Watt said it now appears to be plateauing at an uncomfortably high level.

“Our numbers are high,” Watt said. “If you look statewide, they’re lower than the rest of the state, but they’re not good numbers. They’re not numbers we’d have been satisfied with at any point earlier in the pandemic. They are quite high for our historical context.”

To date, officials report COVID-19 has killed 12 residents and put 132 people in Bartlett Regional Hospital. Four people are in the hospital with COVID-19 now. 

There is good news on the horizon. Officials said they expect federal authorities to expand vaccine eligibility to children ages 5 to 11 in early November. There are about 2,800 children in Juneau in that group.

Young children are less likely than adults to get severe cases of COVID-19. But they’re still transmitting the virus, especially within households.

The anticipated eligibility expansion is specifically for the two-shot, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It will be delivered in smaller doses than adults get. The company says results of a large-scale trial show that it’s safe and effective for these younger children. Regulators are reviewing the data.

Deputy City Manager Robert Barr said to expect supply constraints when the vaccine first becomes available for younger children.

“We don’t expect to receive as much as we would request,” Barr said. “Right now at least, it looks like it’ll be a little similar to how adult vaccines originally rolled out.”

Barr said federal regulators may limit the expansion to higher risk children first. He said to expect the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to share more on that next week.

April Rezendes is a nurse with the state’s local Public Health office. She said when the final approval comes, the roll out will be fast.

“It’s going to look a little different for kids because we know kids are different,” she said. “They don’t always want to walk through Centennial Hall, sit in a crowded space and just sit there for their shot. So a little bit more private space, comfortable settings.”

That means using schools, pediatricians’ offices and nurses who are used to vaccinating kids.

Emergency officials’ COVID risk assessment of Juneau remains at level 3, high, due to high case rates and other risk factors. The indoor masking requirements, social distancing and capacity limits have been in place since the end of July.

 

Original story — Tuesday, Oct. 19, 3:32 p.m.

A state Public Health nurse and the City and Borough of Juneau’s two top administrators will hold a COVID-19 community briefing at 4 p.m. today.

You can participate through the Zoom videoconference online or by calling 1-253-215-8782 or 1-346-248-7799 with the webinar ID 985 6308 5159. You can also watch here, or on the city’s Facebook Live page. The public can email questions in advance to COVIDquestions@juneau.org.

Emergency officials’ COVID risk assessment of Juneau remains at level 3, high, due to high case rates and other risk factors. The associated indoor masking requirements, social distancing and capacity limits have been in place since the end of July.

Vaccines are readily available in the community for people age 12 and up. Officials say that’s likely to change soon, after the federal authorities expand vaccine eligibility to children ages 5 to 11. There’s about 2,800 children in Juneau in that age group. The expanded vaccine authorization is expected to roll out in November.

To date, officials report COVID-19 has killed 11 residents and put 129 people in Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Jeremy Hsieh

Local News Reporter, KTOO

I dig into questions about the forces and institutions that shape Juneau, big and small, delightful and outrageous. What stirs you up about how Juneau is built and how the city works?

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