County: While COVID shots now OK for younger kids, it will take weeks for vaccinations to begin

County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters

Snohomish County now has the green light to vaccinate children against COVID. The Federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced it has determined the Pfizer shots can be safely given to 28 million children ages 5-11 years old nationwide

A total of 75,000 Snohomish County school-age kids are eligible. In his weekly COVID briefing, County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters cautioned that “it would still take several weeks to get shots” to children once their parents approve. The county may only get 10,000 children’s doses in the first week that the vaccine is available. Spitters added that it could take four to six weeks for many children to get a first dose.

The dose will be about a third of the strength that an adult gets and children 5-11 all will get the same dose. The CDC says the shots will be administered three weeks apart. So far, only the Pfizer vaccine has received federal approval for children. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have yet to apply for emergency approval for their vaccines.

The county’s mass vaccine drive-thru sites will not vaccinate children 5-11. Spitters told reporters that children often need a little calming to relax them for vaccinations, and that, he said, just doesn’t work in a drive-thru site. “Parents,” he added, “need to be a part of the process.” Once the county gets the go-head, Spitters suggested parents check in with their health care providers. pharmacies or their schools.

The Edmonds School District said that it will partner with Seattle Visiting Nurse and the Everett and Mukilteo school districts to offer the Pfizer vaccine to children 5-11. Right now, the Visiting Nurses have received just 2,100 doses for nearly 50,000 students in all three districts. Half of those vaccines will be saved for the kid’s second doses. So, the three communities will have just over 1,000 shots available to start. District officials promise to release clinic details for families as soon as the vaccine arrives, which could be within a few days.

Spitters said that parents who are reluctant or don’t want to vaccinate their 5-11 year old children should seek advice from caregivers, pediatricians or pharmacies. “Go to reputable sources,” added Spitters. “Be careful about what you pick off Facebook, Instagram” and other social media.

In the last two weeks, 20% of all new COVID cases have been diagnosed in school-age children. Prior to the start of school in September, that number was about one in 10 cases, Spitters said. A total of 200 school buildings countywide have reported one or more cases in classrooms.

Through the end of September, county data shows 70 school outbreaks; that’s three or more cases per school. Outbreaks in October dropped to 20. Two of those, in Edmonds Madrona K-8 school and Edmonds-Woodway High, were serious. Madrona has just reopened this Monday, after shutting down for two weeks to help control the spread; Edmonds-Woodway canceled football games and its homecoming celebration after an outbreak was linked to the football team.

The county health district urges parents to click here for the latest guidance from the CDC.

Spitters on Tuesday offered the opinion that the county is “really in transition, into a phase of accommodating to keep a lid on transmission to mitigate the severity of cases, and will we muddle through for the remaining length of this pandemic.” This transition, he added, could go on for months, even a couple years more. His final thought: “We have to layer all the approaches to endure and maintain social function; there isn’t a 100% victory in sight.”

— By Bob Throndsen











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