Federal regulators could approve the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5-11 in a few weeks. And the Biden Administration announced Wednesday it will have enough shots for every eligible child in the country.
Meanwhile, the state of Alaska is working on a plan to make sure kids can get vaccinated as soon as possible. State of Alaska Immunization Program Manager Matthew Bobo joined Alaska Public Media’s Casey Grove to talk about those plans.
The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Matthew Bobo: So the timeline we’re looking at right now is, next week, October the 26th, the FDA’s advisory committee will meet to discuss this topic. If they make a recommendation to authorize the vaccine, then that will go to FDA for approval. Then the following week on November the 2nd and November the 3rd, CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will then vote to recommend vaccine for 5- through 11-year-olds. And then finally, the CDC will sign off on the recommendation, and then we’ll be able to vaccinate this age group.
Casey Grove: So how is Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for kids different from the version for adults?
Matthew Bobo: The pediatric vaccine will come in a different vial. And so we are working to get those doses distributed. And the pediatric formulation also has the same active ingredient as the adult formulation.
Casey Grove: Is the dose itself smaller for kids, though?
Matthew Bobo: The dose itself is smaller. Yes.
Casey Grove: Gotcha. Kids being smaller themselves, generally.
Matthew Bobo: Correct.
Casey Grove: Do we know at this point how many doses for kids the state’s going to receive? And when do we expect them? And I guess, you know, that’s related to this question of whether there will be limited access at first.
Matthew Bobo: So we learned about our doses that were allocated to the state of Alaska earlier this week. And we have received 33,000 doses. So that’s enough doses to vaccinate approximately 44% of Alaska’s 5- through 11-year-olds. And so we’re working with our health care providers to get them to order this vaccine, so when the CDC makes the authorization for the vaccine, it will be in providers’ offices and ready to go. And so that vaccine will be shipped to providers’ offices that first week in November.
Casey Grove: What’s the state’s plan for getting the vaccine for kids out to different communities?
Matthew Bobo: So when we first ordered this vaccine, it will come in an order set of a minimum order size of 300 doses. And so that’s a lot of doses for one individual provider. And so what we’ll do to get the vaccine throughout the system is, really, we’ll be breaking down those (shipments) into smaller quantities, and then shipping them across the state to make sure that these vaccines are in providers’ offices.
Casey Grove: And then I wonder about rural areas, what will access to this version of the vaccine look like for them?
Matthew Bobo: We’re working hand-in-hand with our tribal health organizations and our partners at tribal facilities. And so we will be able to send them vaccine, and a lot of these locations are also able to break down the doses and send them to smaller villages.
Casey Grove: So we know there are a lot of parents out there eagerly waiting to get a vaccine for their children. What can they do to prepare for that?
Matthew Bobo: So I think just be informed. We will be keeping our website up to date. And we’ll make sure that people are aware of events going on in communities. And so, just pay attention to the news. And then, once the vaccine is authorized by CDC, then make an appointment. And we encourage everyone to get vaccinated.
Casey Grove: How quickly do you think children in that age group can be vaccinated once it’s approved? And you know, is it going to take weeks to get it to everyone who wants the vaccine?
Matthew Bobo: So in that first week, we will have enough doses to vaccinate 44% of the population. But in that second week, we will get more vaccine and more allocation. So really it depends on what the demand is. We have enough supply, but it really depends on the demand. And for those parents who are eager to get the vaccine for their 5- through 11-year-olds, that vaccine will be available.
Casey Grove: Is it difficult to convince parents that might be skeptical to get their kids vaccinated?
Matthew Bobo: You know, I think there are a lot of questions. This is a new vaccine. This is a new disease. And I think people are trying to get the best information that they can to make a decision. And so I still think that’s happening, and so people are still on our vaccine ECHOs (videoconferences hosted by the state health department) asking questions and learning, and we want to provide them with the best information and the best information following the science.