Montgomery County has begun administering booster coronavirus vaccine doses for children ages 5 to 11 after the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved emergency use authorization earlier this month.
In the first few days since administration began last weekend, 90 booster doses for 5- to 11-year-olds were given at county clinics, according to Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services. Anderson added that a number of parents are likely taking their children to their own pediatrician rather than getting a booster shot from the county government.
County officials say they are still waiting for the FDA and CDC to allow emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to be available for children who are 6 months to 4 years old.
Here’s what you need to know about vaccine distribution in the county:
How can I get a coronavirus vaccine and or/booster in Montgomery County?
County officials are still running clinics that provide coronavirus vaccines and boosters throughout the county. Health officials encourage those who wish to attend a clinic to schedule an appointment so they can be guaranteed to receive a dose.
The Maryland Department of Health also is now distributing coronavirus vaccine doses to the private sector, including but not limited to pharmacies, hospitals, doctor’s offices and pediatricians.
Who is eligible for a coronavirus vaccine?
Everyone who is age 5 and older is eligible to get an initial series of coronavirus vaccine, along with a booster shot five months after that first series. For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, that initial series includes two doses. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single dose.
Those who are immunocompromised or have other health conditions can get their booster three months after their initial series.
It’s important to note that only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for children ages 5 to 17. Those ages 18 and older, unless they have medical conditions preventing them from doing so, are eligible to receive the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The same medical precaution should be applied to the Pfizer vaccine, if a doctor advises against it.
Boosters are available to everyone who is 5 and older, though only the Pfizer booster is available to all. Recipients must be 18 or older to choose either the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
When might children ages 6 months to 4 years old be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine?
James Bridgers, the county’s acting health officer, told reporters earlier this month that emergency use authorization from the FDA and CDC could come by June.
Anderson, the DHHS spokeswoman, said an advisory board for the FDA is scheduled in mid-June to review the data and clinical trials for Pfizer for this age group. If the FDA approves emergency use authorization, the next step would be CDC final review and approval.
Once the FDA and CDC approves the use, Pfizer and the federal government will send vaccine doses to states, which will then distribute them to local governments. Health officials have also said they rely on clinical guidance from the state health department to know how to administer the shots at their clinics.
Who should get a coronavirus booster?
Local health officials say everyone should get a booster as it provides increased protection against the coronavirus and variants of COVID-19. People who are immunocompromised or have other increased health risks should definitely get one in order to protect themselves from severe illness, they say.
Sean O’Donnell, the county’s public health emergency preparedness manager, told reporters Wednesday that the unvaccinated were twice as likely as the vaccinated to get infected with COVID-19. Unvaccinated people are eight times as likely to die from COVID-19 than those who are fully vaccinated, he added.
“They’re taking up a disproportionate burden of people who end up in the hospitals and people who are dying,” O’Donnell said. “We would certainly want to see all those individuals become fully vaccinated. And then the next priority is those who are at greater risk need to get boosters.”
Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard said Wednesday that getting vaccinated and boosted is similar to wearing a seatbelt while driving. Wearing a seatbelt doesn’t guarantee you won’t be involved in an accident, but it prevents the greater risk of severe injury or death, Stoddard said.
“I think the key here is the more layers you can put into your body and protect yourself, the less likely it is that you’re going to get infected, and the less likely it is that you’re going to have that infection resulting in a serious illness,” Stoddard said. “So we continue to encourage people to be vaccinated if they haven’t, or boosted if they haven’t, or adding boosters on when they become eligible, because it continues to further reduce and reduce your probability of that negative outcome.”
Who can get a second COVID-19 booster?
According to the CDC and county health officials, second boosters are available to immunocompromised people or those with similar underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk. People over 50 are encouraged to consider getting a booster, the CDC states.
O’Donnell said earlier this month that the FDA and CDC are currently looking at data and studies to see if that eligibility should be expanded to the general population, including those under 50 years old.
“If [the FDA and CDC] come back and say, ‘We’re going to recommend boosters now for this age group,’ we certainly would defer to their judgment with the data that they’re looking at,” O’Donnell said.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com