2021 | Government

Health officials detail plans for vaccine rollout for ages 5 to 11

Target is to reach 25% to 30% of kids for each of first two weeks

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A resident receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a county-run clinic at White Oak Recreation Center in early January. Health officials discussed their preparations for distributing vaccine to kids 5 to 11 years old at a County Council meeting Tuesday.

File Photo

Montgomery County health officials will try to vaccinate about a quarter of the children ages 5 to 11 the first week that a COVID-19 vaccine is available — then another quarter in the second week.

Sean O’Donnell, the public health emergency manager for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, told the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday that once the Pfizer vaccine is approved for that age group, he hopes county-run clinics and private providers can vaccinate between 25% and 30% of the eligible population each of the first two weeks. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to meet on Oct. 26 to consider whether to grant emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for ages 5 to 11. If approved, the vaccine is expected to be available by early November.

“What we saw is a huge percentage of people came out on the 12- to 15-year-olds, and then it slowly trailed off,” O’Donnell said. “And that was not only Montgomery County — that was the whole state.”

Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard said the new doses of Pfizer, if approved by the FDA, would come in different dosages, bottles and labels than ones for older populations. That means the vaccine that county and private providers have on hand can’t be used for ages 5 to 11, he said.

Stoddard said the 5- to 11-year-old age group accounts for about 105,000 residents countywide, much larger than the roughly 60,000 residents who are 12 to 15 years old. 

Stoddard said the goal is still to get the allotment “out the door as fast as possible,” but that depends on what the federal government provides to Maryland, and what the state gives to Montgomery County.

James Bridgers, the county’s acting health officer, said the county is working with community partners on a direct connection with state officials to receive vaccine doses directly, to streamline the process.

Bridgers added that the county is working with Montgomery County Public Schools to ensure an equitable distribution to students. 

He and other health officials around the state are awaiting guidance from the Maryland Department of Health. Bridgers said that is supposed to be finalized and sent to Gov. Larry Hogan’s office this weekend for approval. 

It’s unclear whether the bulk of vaccinations will be sent to private providers or elsewhere, Bridgers said.

The other two-dose coronavirus vaccine, Moderna, and the single-shot Johnson and Johnson are also seeking emergency approval, but that will likely come after Pfizer’s. When those could be approved is unclear, but health officials hope it is by the end of 2021. 

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