By Claudia Chiappa
Boston University Statehouse Program
BOSTON — Massachusetts expects to receive 360,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 in the coming weeks, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said during a joint legislative oversight hearing Thursday morning.
The authorization of a vaccine for children 5 to 11 is currently under consideration by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which are expected to meet on Oct. 26 and Nov. 2-3 respectively.
If the vaccine is authorized, the federal government is expected to start shipping doses of the Pfizer vaccine to states within hours. Massachusetts has already preordered 360,000 doses, expected to arrive no later than Nov. 5. Out of those doses, half will be distributed to retail pharmacies, and the other half to health care providers.
“We have a strong infrastructure in Massachusetts, but we have to continue to be nimble,” Sudders said.
In Massachusetts, roughly 515,000 children between the ages of 5 and 11 will become eligible upon CDC approval. Overall, Sudders estimates that the first batch of doses will be enough to provide 70% of children with a first dose.
“What I want to see is that at the end of 30 days, after doses have arrived, that 90% of the doses have been administered,” Sudders said. “That is my goal.”
To date, 289 health care providers at hundreds of sites across the state have indicated they will distribute the pediatric vaccines, Sudders said. After the initial installment, health care providers will be able to submit orders directly to the federal government for new doses.
“The Department of Public Health remains committed to ensuring the safety of all residents against the COVID-19 virus, as you know, and our partnerships with the schools and our relationship with clinical partners are more important now than ever,” said acting Public Health Commissioner Margaret Cooke.
A big part of the process, said Cooke, is ensuring that parents have access to the right information. This includes involving parents in the process and providing the right resources for them.
“I really believe that the most important part of vaccinating children is dissemination of information,” Cooke said. “We really try to focus on parents and educating parents because we know parents who get vaccinated have children that get vaccinated. So we really want to focus in on targeting information and encouraging parents to speak to their trusted sources.”
Children, including very young children, can develop COVID-19. Many of them have no symptoms, and those who do get sick tend to experience milder symptoms such as low-grade fever, fatigue, and cough, according to health officials.
However, children with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk for severe illness, and a potentially severe and dangerous complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome can occur in children.
The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it has procured enough doses to vaccinate the country’s 28 million children ages 5 to 11.
“The administration’s plan will mobilize a comprehensive effort across the public and private sectors to ensure that we have the supply, the sites, and the support needed to get our nation’s children vaccinated and protected against the virus,” read Wednesday’s statement.
In the last two weeks, 8.7% of the state’s total confirmed new COVID-19 cases were found in children between the ages of 5 and 9, while 9.2% of total cases were found in children between 10 and 14, the State House News Service reported.
“Our goal is to manage from a pandemic to an endemic,” Sudders said. “And by that what I mean is that we will be able to manage this virus going forward. We will not be eradicating coronavirus. It’s about managing it going forward. And that is vaccines, testing, surveillance, and honest, honest dialogue.”
This article originally appeared in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.