The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine could be administered into younger arms in Montgomery County, starting as soon as Thursday.
The vaccine is going through the final approval process for use with children ages 12 to 15. The federal Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine for the age group on Monday and the Advisory Commission for Immunization Practices will meet on Wednesday to give final approval.
Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, told the County Council during a briefing on Tuesday that he is “confident and hopeful” that expanded eligibility will help the county’s percentage of residents with at least one dose of a vaccine increase “fairly quickly.”
The county’s reopening plan includes three phases. It is in the first phase, which loosened some restrictions on businesses and gatherings.
The second phase, which will further lift restrictions, begins when 60% of the county’s population receives a first dose of a vaccine.
The third phase will be prompted by 50% of the county’s population receiving a second dose or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The county would switch to state restrictions under the last phase.
Earl Stoddard, executive director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, told the council that the younger age group represents about 3% to 4% of the county’s population — or 35,000 to 40,000 children.
The county is preparing for Pfizer’s likely expansion to the younger age group, including plans to add evening and weekend youth vaccine clinics, to accommodate parents’ and guardians’ work schedules.
Children ages 12 to 15 can be preregistered for the Pfizer vaccine on the county’s website.
Children will also be able to receive doses at any sites in the county that offer the Pfizer vaccine. Montgomery County has received Pfizer vaccine doses from the state, almost exclusively, in its last few shipments, Gayles said.
Parents and guardians will need to be present with children in order to do an age attestation for the children and sign consent forms.
“We encourage [parents and guardians] to certainly, again, have conversations with your health care providers to discuss [their] specific concerns,” he said. “But the information that we have is overwhelmingly positive. It’s overwhelmingly safe.”
During a school board meeting on Tuesday afternoon, MCPS Associate Superintendent of Operations Essie McGuire said the district “very much welcomes the opportunity to partner with our local health office” to ensure shots get into students’ arms.
Deputy Superintendent Monifa McKnight said MCPS and county officials are trying to gather information about how many families of children who meet the new criteria will want the vaccine.
MCPS staff members said they are exploring with the county Department of Health and Human Services the possibility of providing vaccinations for students — with parental consent — at school sites.
Staff writer Caitlynn Peetz contributed to this story.
Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.