Pfizer vaccines for younger kids expected in WA next week

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Health officials in Washington said Wednesday they are expecting about 316,000 doses of kid-sized Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in the state next week ahead of the expected final approval of the shots for 5- to 11-year-olds.

Michele Roberts, the state Department of Health’s acting assistant secretary, said the state has ordered 230,000 doses to be delivered to providers next week, and that an additional 86,000 doses were expected to arrive at pharmacies through the federal pharmacy program.

On Tuesday, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel endorsed the shots for 5- to 11-year-olds. The FDA isn’t bound by the panel’s recommendation and is expected to make its own decision within days. If authorized by the FDA, next week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will decide whether to recommend the shots and which youngsters should get them.

“We are one step closer,” Roberts said.

She said that the shots won’t be able to be administered until after the CDC recommendation, but she said that she believed kids could start being vaccinated as soon as the end of next week. Of the nearly 680,000 kids in the 5-11 age group, Roberts said they were estimating parents would be seeking shots immediately for about 30% of that population.

Full-strength shots made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech already are recommended for everyone 12 and older but pediatricians and many parents are clamoring for protection for younger children.

Lacy Fehrenbach, the deputy secretary the Department of Health’s COVID-19 response, said the state is working with schools ahead of the authorization, and she noted some have already been offering clinics on site for vaccination for older students. In addition, they have vaccine caravan efforts that will focus on the younger population.

“Just like every other group that’s been eligible it is our goal to vaccinate these 5- to 11-year-olds as quickly and equitably as possible, that is our path out of this pandemic,” she said.

Fehrenbach said there were a total of 189 COVID-19 outbreaks reported in Washington K-12 schools between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30.

She said there are 1,284 cases associated with those outbreaks and that 88% of the cases were among students age 19 and under. Currently, when there’s a case of a close contact of someone with a COVID diagnosis, schools had the option to choose one of three quarantine options: a seven-day quarantine with return on Day 8 with a negative test on Day 5 or later; a 10-day quarantine with no test; or a 14-day quarantine.

Most schools had used the 14-day quarantine option, Fehrenbach said, but now schools will be required to offer families the option of the seven-day quarantine, with a test on Day 5 “so that students can return to class more quickly.”

As of this week, 78.6% of people age 12 and older have initiated vaccination in Washington state and more than 72.5% are fully vaccinated.

That number does not include booster shots, which were expanded to more people last week, including the option for people to choose a different company’s vaccine that their original series. As of this week, more than 363,000 people have either received a booster or a third dose, Roberts said.

There have been more than 634,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases — plus about 83,000 “probable” cases — in Washington state, and 8,511 deaths.