County Health officials prepare for possible expansion of vaccine to children

Contra Costa County announced Friday it has opened all their COVID-19 vaccine clinics to people who walk in without an appointment.

"We have thousands of open appointments across all of our sites, and we want to fill them," said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, Contra Costa County's Deputy Health Officer.

Contra Costa County health officials say more than 70% of eligible people in the county receiving at least one dose.

"I had choices to where I wanted to get the shot, so it worked out really well," said Laura Kell, a Martinez resident who went for her second Pfizer dose at a clinic in Martinez.

The focus is shifting now, with health officials trying to find ways of improving access for those who still haven't gotten a dose and children ages 12 to 15-year-old children who might become eligible as soon as next week.

"We have about 90,000 kids in that 12–15-year-old range and we've been talking to all of the school districts and making plans to vaccinate all of them," said Dr. Tzvielli.

That FDA emergency use authorization could be as soon as next Wednesday when they review the Pfizer 12–15-year-old trial data.

"Kids will be able to play together more freely, they'll be able to go to parties, being parts of clubs. It's really going to change the game both in the school setting and in their regular lives," said Dr. Matt Willis, the Marin County Health Officer.

Dr. Willis says the goal is to vaccinate at least 50% of kids within the first week they become eligible.

"We've got multiple locations teed up and ready to go. We've got our mobile vans are waiting to go to schools," said Dr. Willis.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland and doctors at an online town hall Friday say outreach to parents will be critical.

"We got to be a grassroots movement to crush this virus," said Rep. Lee.

"The real hurdle is going to be consent, about parental consent because there will be a requirement for that," said Dr. Kim Rhoads, a UCSF epidemiologist, and cofounder of Umoja Health.

They say schools, faith centers, and drop-in sites need flexible scheduling and resources for parents who work or face language and transportation barriers.

Some also say more vaccinations should be made available to pediatricians.

"Many of the steps that have to be taken, we do all the time for flu vaccine, and measles, mumps and rubella," said Dr. Nelson Branco, with Tamalpais Pediatrics.

"We already participate in the vaccine registry. And so for pediatricians, we already have a running start compared to other physicians," said Dr. Branco.

If the Pfizer vaccine for 12 thru 15-year-old children is approved on Wednesday, the dosage will be the same as adults, making it easier for providers to use the same supplies and distribution protocols.