Children ages 5 to 11 may be able to get vaccinated as soon as next week in Santa Clara County, pending approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Wednesday, county vaccine officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said 55,000 doses of pediatric Pfizer vaccine are poised to arrive next week -- enough to vaccinate a third of that age group in the county.
Both the CDC advisory committee and director are poised to recommend the Pfizer vaccine by Nov. 2 or 3, which means this age group could become eligible on Nov. 3 or 4.
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The vaccination process for children will be very similar to the one for adults. They will receive two doses 21 days apart and be fully inoculated two weeks after the second dose.
The specialized dose for children that comes in orange vials is about a third of the dose of that for adults and made of a slightly different formula.
Children can get vaccinated at health care providers, community clinics and pharmacies. Fenstersheib said the county is also working with schools to open on-campus clinics.
He said vaccination status will not necessarily mean children will be able to remove their masks at school.
"It's an extra layer of safety, but for the time being their masks will stay on," Fenstersheib said.
But, if the county reaches 80% of total county population vaccinated, the mask mandate will be lifted.
For the county to reach that threshold, 55% of youth 5 to 11 years old will need to get inoculated, Fenstersheib said.
"We hope that all of the kids will get a vaccine, not just the minimum number," Fenstersheib said.
As vaccinations roll out, Fenstersheib said the county will have a better idea about vaccine hesitancy in the county.
"There definitely will be some hesitancy," he said. "So, I think that we just have to make sure that all the medical community will provide all those answers."
He emphasized that the vaccine was safe and 90% effective at preventing symptomatic disease in children. Side effects were observed, "but usually very mild with pain in the arm" or fatigue, the vaccine officer said.
"It should be noted though, that during this pandemic, children have not been spared from getting infected by COVID-19," Fenstersheib said.
In the U.S., 1.9 million children, or a little over 2% of the country's youth, were infected with COVID. About 8,300 children were hospitalized, with a third of those requiring intensive care, Fenstersheib said.
COVID cases in the county have been relatively stagnant with a 7-day rolling average of 138 cases, according to the county's data dashboard. According to the dashboard, 19.5% of the county's cases are of people ages 19 and under.
Fenstersheib said he anticipates it will stay that way but there is a possibility of a winter surge.
"It's hard to say right now," Fenstersheib said. "If people continue to be vigilant that would be helpful but going inside and not being outside as much … may cause infections."