Youth age 5 to 11 get COVID vaccine at Clackamas Town Center
Youth and their guardians on Wednesday lined up outside a vacant storefront at the Clackamas Town Center mall to receive among the county's first COVID-19 vaccine doses available for those aged 5-11.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Oct. 29 authorized the Pfizer vaccine in 5- to 11-year olds, a decision affirmed by the CDC on Nov. 2. The following day, the Oregon Health Authority informed health care providers statewide that they could begin administering doses to young people in the approved age range.
Public Health Director Philip Mason-Joyner said that the county receives approximately 900 vaccine doses designated for youth, also referred to as "pediatric" doses, per week. He added that the Pfizer vaccine has been shown to be 91% effective in young people.
"The advantage of getting the COVID vaccine for your child is protect them from COVID-19, to protect the high-risk adults in their lives that they interact with on a regular basis," Mason-Joyner said.
Mason-Joyner said pediatric vaccines are packaged differently than adult vaccines and are reduced in dosage by about two-thirds.
"One of the biggest benefits is, once you're fully vaccinated, if you've been exposed to COVID, you don't have to quarantine," he added. "So, in terms of having kids back in the classroom, not having to deal with the disruptions of having a quarantine, I think it's really a game-changer for families and that's one of the primary reasons I think we're seeing a lot of interest and demand to have access."
Ryan Spiker, the manager of Wednesday's clinic, said the vacant storefront has been utilized weekly on Wednesdays for adult vaccine distribution, by appointment only, since April. It's now additionally offering pediatric doses.
He added that clinic organizers strived to create an environment where children would feel safe and comfortable about receiving the shot, including offering young attendees COVID-19 vaccine activity books in both English and Spanish, crayons, colorful masks and more.
"The anxiety that the younger kids feel for getting a shot, period — you don't get that as much with adults," Spiker said. "Sometimes you might have to explain to somebody why certain things are happening or that or just deal with kids who might be a little squirmier because they're nervous about getting vaccinated."
Mason-Joyner added that the more that parents can tell their children about the vaccines' safety and effectiveness, it will go a long way toward setting a calm tone and lessening their overall uncertainty.
Among those who traveled to Wednesday's clinic was Taylor Swanson, an 11-year-old elementary school student who said she was slightly nervous to receive the shot due to the prospect of trying something for the first time.
"I felt nervous because I've never done this before," Swanson said, "and that's just the type of stuff that I seem to be nervous about, like things that I've never done before, trying new things and stuff like that."
Erica Wright, immunization program planner for the county, said questions and concerns from young people and their guardians are to be expected: Many of the first families to seek pediatric shots for their children had long-awaited the official approval.
"These parents have been in line for months; they've been really wanting it," Wright said, adding that she predicts to begin receiving questions soon regarding many of the same uncertainties that she has heard throughout the pandemic.
"I'm sure those questions will mirror what we've heard all along, like 'Operation Warp Speed was developed so fast,' and it really wasn't," Wright said. "I mean, the way that they did it was just as they would a normal vaccine, in terms of the number of people in the clinical trials and the rigors and the safety measures that this vaccine has to meet before it's in the market."
Pfizer pediatric vaccines are now available at all regularly recurring clinics across the county by appointment only. Due to high demand, the county is asking residents to remain patient and continue to check the county's online appointment scheduler often.
If "Pfizer Pediatric Vaccine" is not listed as an option on the scheduler on the site when checked, that indicated all appointments have been booked for the week and the scheduler will be updated once more doses become available.
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