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'In an ideal world, we get these children vaccinated before Thanksgiving': Kids can get COVID shots next week, here's what you need to know

Vaccine final approval by the feds is expected next week. Maricopa County has ordered enough doses to meet projections for initial demand.

PHOENIX — By the end of next week, families in Arizona and around the country could get their young children vaccinated against COVID-19. 

On Tuesday, outside reviewers for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will discuss the data on a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. 

The FDA is expected to authorize the vaccine for school-age children. 

The final step comes next week, on Nov. 2 and 3, when advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to recommend how the vaccine should be used.

Here's what we know about the rollout in Maricopa County:

Why are pediatricians on front lines?

Under the White House plan for children, pediatricians are taking the lead on vaccinations.

The reason's straightforward: Children might be nervous about a shot, and their parents might have a lot of questions about the vaccine. Pediatricians are the people best suited to deal with both.

"Most parents want to know what's in a vaccine," said Dr. Gary Kirkilas, a Phoenix pediatrician who serves as spokesman for the Arizona chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "They're looking for a trusted source of information."

Family physician Andrew Carroll added: "Children don't like it, but we have ways to help them through it." 

That kind of personal response to children and parents isn't possible at a mass vaccination site, like State Farm Stadium.

Are the doctors ready?

Statewide, more than 900 doctors have signed up to administer the vaccine.

Last week, the Maricopa County Public Health Department began taking doctors' orders for doses. Both the doses and the needles will be smaller for kids than for adults.

Some medical practices are already setting up appointments. It's worth checking whether your pediatrician will be offering the shots.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, when the COVID-19 vaccine rollout begins, you can click this link to find pediatricians who are vaccinating children.

Where else can a child get a shot?

Community health centers, children's hospitals, pharmacies and schools are also expected to administer shots.

There have been few details on that part of the rollout.

Don Herrington, Arizona's interim public health director, said pharmacies might be a few weeks behind doctors with their vaccinations. 

How many doses are available?

The Biden Administration says it has ordered enough doses to cover the roughly 28 million children who will be newly eligible.

In Maricopa County, the number of doses in the initial order roughly matches the number of parents who are expected to want their child vaccinated immediately.

An estimated 400,000 children in the county are eligible for the two-dose regimen. 

County health officials expect to receive 139,200 doses for the first rollout week, enough to cover one-third of the eligible children, according to spokeswoman Jeanene Fowler. 

"It's a good number. It's a good start," Carroll said.

Fowler said the county's supply was guided by a Kaiser Family Foundation survey showing slightly more than one-third of parents -- 34 percent -- say they'll vaccinate their child "right away."

A similar share - 32 percent - wants to "wait and see," while 24 percent say their children will "definitely not" get a COVID vaccine, according to the Kaiser study.

The county's chief medical officer, Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, said at a County Board meeting last week: "The younger kids get, the more hesitant parents seem to be." 

The Pfizer vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds children has been shown to be 90.7 percent effective against symptomatic COVID-19 in children, according to Pfizer data.

With the holiday season fast approaching, Carroll said, getting children vaccinated would protect them at family gatherings, as well as the adults around them.

"In an ideal world, we get these children vaccinated before Thanksgiving," he said. "If they got their first shot two or three weeks before their Thanksgiving vacation, hopefully, they're at least partially protected when families start getting back together. 

"Maybe at the beginning of December, they get their second shot. That would leave them fully protected for that long Christmas holiday."

COVID-19 Vaccine

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