Guam preparing for imminent approval of COVID vaccination for children ages 5 to 11

A nurse gives a girl a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Lyman High School in Longwood on the day before classes begin for the 2021-22 school year. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images via Fox News)

The Department of Public Health and Social Services is already making plans for the imminent approval of COVID-19 vaccination for children aged 5 to 11 years old.

On Thursday, the Biden administration detailed plans for the expected authorization of the Pfizer shot for elementary school youngsters in a matter of weeks.

Federal regulators will meet over the next two weeks to weigh the safety and effectiveness of giving low-dose shots to the roughly 28 million children in the states in that age group.

Here on Guam, DPHSS director Art San Agustin said they still have an adequate supply of the Pfizer vaccine, which is the recommended vaccine for the children, and they’ve already started working on preparations for the approval of the vaccination for children.

“I’ll be submitting a proposed plan on how we would offer the vaccine to children five to 11. The idea right now is to work with the school system, work with our existing partners, and work with the pediatricians and their clinics,” San Agustin said in an interview with NewsTalk K57’s Patti Arroyo.

In the US mainland, ABC News reports that more than 25,000 pediatricians and primary care providers have already signed on to dispense the vaccine to elementary school children, in addition to the tens of thousands of drugstores that are already administering shots to adults.

Moreover, hundreds of school- and community-based clinics will also be funded and supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help speed the process.

In addition to doctors’ offices, schools are also likely to be popular spots for the shots.

At the Guam Department of Education, Superintendent Jon Fernandez said that parents can hardly wait for the vaccinations to begin. In fact, Fernandez said many parents had put off sending their elementary-age children to face-to-face instruction until they receive a COVID vaccination.

US health officials believe that expanding the vaccine drive will not only curb the alarming number of infections in children but also reduce the spread of the virus to vulnerable adults. It could also help schools stay open and youngsters get back on track academically and contribute to the nation’s broader recovery from the pandemic.

On Guam, the youngest children, those from the 0 to 11 years of age group, now comprise the highest COVID-19 case rate, the Department of Public Health and Social Services reported in its latest COVID-19 data and surveillance update released on Oct. 20, 2021.

According to Public Health, the 0-11 age group is the only group that has not been on a downward trend in its latest monitoring, and Dr. Ann Pobutsky, answering a question from PNC, confirmed that cases have been on the rise in this age group for the past few days.

Only recently, the island community was shocked when it was announced that a 4-month-old infant became the youngest victim of COVID-19. Public Health also recently reported that two children, aged 10 to 11, were hospitalized for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children associated with COVID-19 (MIS-C).

Dr. Nathaniel Berg, the chairman of the governor’s Physicians Advisory Group, said the rise in COVID-positive cases among children could be expected because they still cannot be vaccinated. But with vaccination for children now almost certain to be approved, Berg said this is a very big step towards protecting these very vulnerable members of our community.

During Thursday’s Public Health media briefing, Chief Public Health Officer Chima Mbakwem also said that they have been working long nights to plan ahead and look at all the options for the 5 to 11 age group vaccine rollout.

“We’re just waiting for the CDC recommendation to come out and when it does, we’re optimistic that we’ll be ready to deploy,” he said.

He added that the most important thing for the vaccination of this particular age group would be parental consent.

“I think that is the only hurdle that we have to cross — for parents to accept the vaccine, and for them to allow their kids to get the vaccine. At this point, the parents out there understand fully well that the kids need to be protected. You know we all have vaccine-preventable diseases that the kids are mandated to have,” Mbakwem said.

As for the logistics of such a huge undertaking. Mbakwem said they feel pretty confident that they can pull it off because they’ve had previous experience such as when the first batch of vaccines was rolled out and now, the rollout of the current booster and third dose shots.

“We’ve been going through this since December of this year. We have the capacity and we have the ability to mobilize,” he said.

Though regulatory bodies are still weeks away from greenlighting a vaccine for children as young as five, meticulous planning and coordination between state and federal health officials have already been underway for weeks to stand up the complex nationwide launch, ABC News reports.

In a new operational planning guide sent to state health officials and obtained by ABC News, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that jurisdictions should be “ready to vaccinate” the newly eligible group, following Food and Drug Administration and CDC signoff.

Under the guide, CDC advises states to request their pediatric doses in advance — even before the FDA advisory panel meets to debate whether to move ahead — in hopes of smoothing the way for an eventual “manageable and equitable launch.”

Those “pre-orders” are allowed to begin as early as this week.

(with ABC News)