Pediatric clinics planned as health officials shift focus to child vaccination



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Local public health officials and pediatric health providers are ramping up local distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization of the vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old. 

Today, the Meriden Department of Health and Human Services will hold its first mass pediatric vaccination clinic at Maloney High School. Officials expect to administer 560 vaccines during that clinic, which is by appointment only.

All available appointments for that clinic have been booked and a second dose clinic has been scheduled for Dec. 4. 

The first clinic comes eight days after the announcement that the FDA had approved the pediatric vaccine. Meriden health officials in their most recent weekly COVID-19 update, reported as of Nov. 3, that 63.71% of vaccine eligible residents were fully vaccinated, while 68.58% of eligible residents had received their first dose. 

City data on vaccination rates shows that another school-aged group — 12 to 17 year olds —  has a full vaccination rate of 61.89%.

Lea Crown, Meriden’s Director of Health and Human Services, said her department has received inquiries from city families and from families in surrounding towns regarding where they can get vaccine. Families located in the city were signed up for the Maloney clinic, while families from outside Meriden were referred to their local health departments or to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine portal website.

Crown said the city would soon publish information about other upcoming pediatric vaccine clinics on the city’s COVID-19 web page.

Retargeted Efforts

Over the summer, vaccine outreach efforts were focused on addressing equity and disparate vaccination rates for high need populations. Now officials have targeted their efforts on the 5 to 11 group. 

“Vaccination accessibility has greatly increased as more providers have come online,” Crown said, adding the department is encouraging people to get a seasonal flu vaccine as well. 

Vaccine distribution data shows many demographic groups in the city have received vaccines at similar rates. Close to 61% of the city’s Latino residents who are 12 and older are fully vaccinated, while 56.4% of white, non-Latino, residents are similarly vaccinated.

The vaccination rate for Black city residents had improved to 53.3%, while the rate for Asian city residents was 62.8%. Meanwhile, the vaccination rate for residents whose background is Native American had actually declined by more than a percentage point, to 30.6%, according to city health data. 

While the city isn’t formally working with local health providers, including pharmacies and pediatricians, to promote vaccines, Crown said her department and the other providers are “all encouraging those who are eligible for vaccination to get vaccinated.”

The FDA, in granting approval of the pediatric Pfizer vaccine late last month, cited a study that found it to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages 5 through 11. The study included 3,100 children in that age group who received the vaccine. The ongoing study so far has not detected any serious side effects, according to the FDA. 

The vaccine is a smaller dose than the one authorized for individuals 12 years of age and older and is similarly administered as a two-dose series, with three weeks between doses, according to the FDA. 

The FDA’s authorization also enabled a manufacturing change. That change includes a new formulation that gives the vaccine a longer stable shelf life at refrigerated temperatures. 

In a joint news release earlier in the week, Gov. Ned Lamont and state Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani said the authorization makes nearly all of Connecticut’s school-aged children eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 

“This roll-out is a critical tool to help keep children in school and protect not just children themselves, but also their parents, family members, teachers, and school staff,” the Nov. 2 announcement read. 

Officials estimate the state’s current population of children ages 5 to 11 is 277,630. 

Where to find vaccines

Vaccine providers include hundreds of pediatricians across the state. For families whose pediatricians are not offering the vaccine, state health officials recommend contacting local pharmacies. State agencies and local school districts are also collaborating to offer school-based clinics, like that at Maloney, across the state. Information about those clinics will be provided by local school districts. 

Hartford Healthcare, a statewide system that includes MidState Medical Center in Meriden, will host pediatric vaccine clinics at several locations across the state on Nov. 13. Second dose appointments at those same sites have been scheduled for Dec. 4. The clinics closest to Meriden will be held at Hartford Healthcare facilities in New Britain and Wethersfield. Appointments, which can be booked on hartfordhealthcare.org, are required. 

Eric Arlia, senior director of pharmacy for Hartford Healthcare, said the network has 3,000 doses of the vaccine to start. Arlia said pediatric vaccinations require special training for those providing them, so vaccine quantity and the qualifications of vaccine administrators are two factors that may impact availability. 

Arlia anticipates there will be high demand for vaccines early on and that demand will taper off. 

Hartford Healthcare, like other agencies, has been consistent in its messaging about the vaccines’ effectiveness and safety. Arlia said the vaccines have been well studied.

“We understand that there are rare possible side effects,” Arlia said, while noting that the risks of COVID-19 infection are far, far greater than adverse vaccine reactions.

“We are encouraging families to get the vaccines through their pediatricians. They are the experts on pediatric vaccines,” Arlia said. 

Other future clinics

Meriden City Councilor Michael Rohde, who serves as director of community relations for Community Health Center Inc., said the center is in the process of receiving its first supply of vaccines. The center’s initial focus will be on vaccinating its enrolled patients.

Rohde anticipates the center will collaborate with city health officials to schedule future pop-up clinics throughout the city. 

In Cheshire, the Chesprocott Health District has scheduled three separate pediatric vaccine clinics in collaboration with local school officials. Chesprocott Director Maura Esposito said those clinics will be held on Nov. 9, 13 and  20. 

Esposito said parents have received information from their schools with instructions on how to sign up for appointments.  

Officials have not expressed concern about whether there will be enough vaccine to meet public demand. 

Crown said the city was able to order enough vaccines for its clinic today and would only keep enough vaccines in stock for planned clinics “so there is no wastage.”

Crown described widespread vaccination against COVID-19 as “a critical tool to best protect everyone, especially those at highest risk, from severe illness and death. 

“Those who are fully vaccinated can safely resume many of the activities that they did prior to the pandemic,” Crown wrote. “Once children are fully vaccinated — that is two weeks after their second shot — if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19 they will not need to quarantine as long as they remain symptom free. This means that they do not need to miss school, extra curricular activities, sports, and parents/guardians would not need to take time off from work to stay home with their child during their quarantine at home.”

More information about COVID-19 vaccines and providers can be found at https://portal.ct.gov/Vaccine-Portal.

mgagne@record-journal.com203-317-2231Twitter:@MikeGagneRJ



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