Bay Area counties prepare to administer COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5-11

The CDC’s potential emergency use authorization for a children’s COVID-19 vaccine is prompting Bay Area counties to prepare to administer the shots.

Adult COVID-19 vaccinations are already being administered inside Exposition Hall at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, but starting in early November, children could take their place in-line to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

While some parents have concerns, this impending step is a big relief for others.

"For adults, things are getting somewhat back to normal. For those of us with small kids, we haven’t been able to get back to normal," said parent Jacqueline Palchick.

She has two children, a five-year-old son in kindergarten, and a nine-year-old daughter in 4th grade. Both could soon be eligible to receive a children’s dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"I trust the science. And I believe the experts and they’ve done the research and the trials," said Palchick.

On Wednesday, Santa Clara County health officials began the process of outlining how kids from ages five to eleven may soon be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, at the county Fairgrounds.

"The vaccine has been shown to be effective and safe, 90% effective in preventing symptomatic disease in these children," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the Santa Clara County COVID-19 vaccine coordinator.

Fenstersheib says nationally, nearly 2 million children have contracted COVID-19 during the ongoing pandemic. One third of the total amount of vaccines needed will start arriving in California next week. There are 3 million children statewide, and 55,000 in Santa Clara County.

"So vaccinating these children will keep them even safer in school," said Fenstersheib.

The vaccination process is the same for both children and adults. But the dosage for children is one third that of an adult’s, necessitating new shipments of vaccine, according to experts and officials.

"If you only have a vile that has the correct dose, they can’t give more than what’s in that vile. So it’s really a safety precaution that the FDA puts on almost all drugs that they make," said Dr. Mark  Schwartz, a San Jose State University biotechnologist.

County officials said distractions to ease anxieties are being set up at the Fairgrounds. A scavenger hunt, play area with coloring books, and privacy screens are planned for the area.

"You hate to see them upset and scared," said Susan Irizarry, a Santa Clara County physician’s assistant, in reference to the young children. "And realizing triggers and understanding the different fears and concerns for the different population of children is key."

Officials say they’ll need at least 55% of children to get vaccinated to reach herd immunity.

They encourage parents who are concerned about giving the vaccine – which may soon have emergency use authorization – to talk to their primary healthcare provider.