2021 | Coronavirus

How will the rollout of coronavirus vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds work?

County officials say it is difficult to predict, suspect initial demand might outpace supply

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A Montgomery County vaccinator prepares a COVID-19 vaccine syringe at the county clinic on Montgomery College's Germantown campus on March 31, 2021. The Pfizer vaccine could soon be available for 5- to 11-year-old residents countywide

File Photo

This story was updated at 9:10 p.m. Oct. 28, 2021, to correct the status of emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine.

With the Food and Drug Administration’s considering emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, Montgomery County officials are preparing for the vaccine rollout to that age group.

Leaders from the county’s Department of Health and Human Services and others have offered some details about how the rollout would work.

Parents throughout the community have expressed interest in having their children receive a vaccine, improving their protection against the coronavirus. 

Here are some answers to common questions:

When will the Pfizer vaccine be available for 5- to 11-year-olds?

An advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday recommended an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children ages 5 to 11. The FDA is expected to act soon.

County officials have said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still needs to approve use of the Pfizer vaccine before the federal government can distribute it to states nationwide. Sean O’Donnell, the public health emergency manager for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters on Oct. 25 that it could occur by the first or second week of November.

“My understanding is that the CDC will be meeting to review the FDA recommendations, the first week of November,” O’Donnell said. “And we’re hoping that there’ll be authorization very soon after that. So we’re preparing for potentially the first weekend in November, but it could be the second weekend in November.”

How many doses of vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds could Montgomery County get?

James Bridgers, the county’s acting health officer, told reporters on Wednesday that the county hopes to receive about 40,000 doses in the “first wave” it would receive. 

Of those, 13,200 doses will go to the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, and 26,700 doses will go to hospitals, pediatricians and other health care settings.

“The notion is to get more doses in our primary care providers, our pediatric sites, because they are trusted in all sites,” Bridgers said. “Pediatricians and clinicians are trained to administer doses to school age or younger individuals.”

Will demand outpace supply, as was seen during initial waves of vaccine distribution earlier this year?

County officials have said that based on U.S. census estimates, about 95,000 to 105,000 residents countywide are 5 to 11 years old and would be eligible, once the Pfizer vaccine is approved by the FDA and the CDC.

Some, including County Council members, have asked whether initial demand will outpace supply, especially in the first weeks of the rollout.

Bridgers told reporters on Wednesday that it is difficult to say, but it will become clear during the first three weeks of distribution. It is good that officials currently have more supply of vaccine countywide, versus the initial rollout late last year and in January, he said. 

County Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz said during the council’s meeting Tuesday that he anticipates high demand locally. But he added that people will likely try to find vaccine wherever they can find the doses. 

He urged patience as the initial rollout occurs.

“I think we need to make sure to underscore to our public, to level-set expectations, that for the first few weeks, there will be more demand than there is supply,” Albornoz said.

Where will the vaccine be administered?

County officials have said they are aiming to use an equitable approach for distributing and administering their doses, focusing on areas of the county most affected by coronavirus infections. 

It’s unclear how many vaccine doses will go to pediatricians versus hospitals and other health care settings, but county officials said Tuesday that there are more than 200 pediatricians countywide, and more than 70% have requested doses. 

Also, there are more than 200 local sites scattered at pharmacies, urgent care facilities, hospitals and other public health settings that plan to distribute vaccines. 

Department of Health and Human Services officials said the county will distribute and administer its doses at certain “clusters,” or areas with higher case rates and locations more greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The county hopes to be open weekdays at the following sites:

  • East County Recreational Center, 3310 Gateshead Manor Way, Silver Spring
  • Silver Spring Civic Building, 1 Veterans Place, Silver Spring
  • Montgomery College Germantown Campus, 20200 Observation Drive #4067, Germantown
  • Lakeforest Mall, 701 Russell Ave., Gaithersburg
  • Montgomery College Rockville, 51 Mannakee St., Rockville
  • Dennis Avenue Health Center, 2000 Dennis Ave., Silver Spring. 

They also hope to administer vaccines the first weekend they are available at the following schools:

  • Banneker Middle School, 14800 Perrywood Drive, Burtonsville
  • Francis Scott Key Middle School, 910 Schindler Drive, Silver Spring
  • Argyle Middle School, 2400 Bel Pre Road, Silver Spring
  • Loiederman Middle School, 12701 Goodhill Road, Silver Spring
  • Roberto Clemente Middle School, 18808 Waring Station Road, Germantown
  • Eastern Middle School, 300 University Blvd. E., Silver Spring
  • Montgomery Village Middle School, 19300 Watkins Mill Rd., Montgomery Village
  • Julius West Middle School, 651 Great Falls Road, Rockville
  • Forest Oak Middle School, 651 Saybrooke Oaks Blvd., Gaithersburg

O’Donnell said middle schools typically have more parking than elementary schools, and “more accessibility internally.”

Residents are asked to contact their primary care provider or pediatricians for more information, or stay tuned to county information channels for when vaccinations begin. 

What is the difference in dosages between the Pfizer vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds and other populations?

County officials have said the new Pfizer vaccine will be labeled differently, in different bottles than vaccine doses for other age groups.

NPR reported that the doses for 5- to 11-year-olds will contain one-third of the active ingredient compared to adult doses. Once children receive their first dose, they will wait 21 days or more to receive their second dose.

Dr. William Gruber, senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development at Pfizer, said during the FDA meeting earlier this week that the dosage was picked to “strike the right balance” between limiting potential side effects and strong immunity. 

Pfizer data submitted to the FDA showed its vaccine appeared to be more than 90% effective against symptomatic COVID-19, according to the main clinical trial. 

When might Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines be available for 5- to 11-year-olds?

It is tough to say. Both companies have to go through the same regulatory processes that the Pfizer vaccine went through, clearing hurdles at the FDA and CDC. Neither has gotten approval from either.

Health officials have said they hope that Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are available for 5- to 11-year-olds by the end of 2021, but that depends on clinical trials and how quickly each company moves through the regulatory process.

Can parents pre-register with the county to get their children the vaccine?

No, according to Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Service.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com