COLUMBUS, Ohio — More than 34,000 Ohio children under the age of 12 have gotten a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the green light for children to receive kid-sized doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Nov. 2.
The approval meant health officials across the country could begin administering the vaccine to children as young as 5.
Ohioans can click here to learn more.
During a press briefing Friday morning, ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said he is feeling optimistic. This is due to the combination of younger children getting vaccinated and the anticipation of two effective products from Merck and Pfizer to be considered by the Food and Drug Administration in the days to come.
“There continues to be real progress in the fight against COVID-19, which should give us genuine optimism,” he said. “But our optimism needs to be tempered by the fact that the numbers on the ground continue to tell us that we are most certainly not out of the woods yet.”
Dr. Vanderhoff went on to explain how Ohio’s downward trend of COVID-19 case numbers has plateaued but has increased in the last few days. Nearly 5,000 cases were reported on Thursday.
He said vaccinations, especially among younger children, will play an important role in keeping the virus under control as we head into the winter months. Part of that effort includes vaccination clinics through local hospitals, health departments, and school districts.
Madison County Health Commissioner Chris Cook said during the brief that they started registration for the 5-11 age group two weeks ago in anticipation of the authorization. He said the county started the vaccine rollout last Thursday, and since then, they’ve administered more than 200 vaccines to kids in this new age group.
“On Tuesday, we vaccinated 66 kiddos at the Jefferson local schools. We have another school clinic scheduled this Tuesday with our St. Patrick's school in London and we're finalizing plans for all of our other schools as well,” he said.
There is one difference, Cook said, for clinics catering to this younger age group.
“Typically, we hold these school-based clinics right after the school day since we asked parents especially for this age group to be present during vaccination,” he said.
To make appointments as accessible as possible for parents, Madison County Health Department is hosting late clinics every Tuesday and Thursday until 6:30 p.m. at their office for the foreseeable future. There will also be a clinic on Nov. 13 at their office from 9 a.m. to noon.
“Vaccinating these kids now is giving families confidence that their holiday season is going to be as safe as possible, and hopefully as normal as possible, because that's what we all really want at the end of the day.”
Dr. Sara Bode, a pediatrician and medical director of Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s school-based health and mobile clinics, shared how the rollout has been going in its first full week.
“This is really such a critical turning point to be able to offer this vaccine for this age group,” she said.
Bode explained their team of Child Life Specialists are helping kids who may feel anxious about getting the shot by talking with them, answering all their questions, and providing super hero capes and stickers.
“It's been a really positive, enjoyable experience,” she said.
It appears the demand is high.
According to Hilliard City Schools, two clinics scheduled for students next week through Giant Eagle already filled up.
In Westerville, the school district is partnering with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to host a clinic Nov. 29 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the district’s Early Learning Center at 936 Eastwind Drive.
The clinic for the second dose will happen at the same location and time on Dec. 20.
The Pfizer vaccine used for this age group is a third of the dose used for those 12 and older. When asked if parents have a child that’s about to turn 12, if they should wait for the bigger dose, Dr. Vanderhoff said “don’t wait.”
“The studies analyzing children's immune response showed very clearly that an 11-year-old will have the same fabulous protection after receiving the lower pediatric dose 10 micrograms gram dose as a 12-year-old would when they get the larger 30 microgram dose,” he said. “So there's, in my opinion, absolutely no reason to wait.”
You can watch Friday's full press briefing below:
The announcement from the CDC last week also means Ohio can expand its Vax-to-School drawing to include those ages 5-25. The program will award $2 million in scholarships to eligible Ohioans.
Ohioans have until 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 21 to register in order to be eligible for all drawings. In order to be eligible for the second drawing and grand prize, Ohioans must be registered by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 28. Ohioans need to have registered by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 1 in order to be eligible for the grand prize drawing.
You can learn more about Vax-to-School here.