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Local pediatricians gearing up to offer children's COVID-19 vaccine, possibly by next Thursday

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Kelly Sikkema
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Local pediatricians plan to offer the COVID-19 vaccine soon after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues a recommendation.

Some local pediatricians could be ready by next Thursday to start giving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11.

Dr. Matthew Libby, medical director at the Harwich Port Health Center, said Outer Cape Health Services pre-ordered the vaccine.

“We anticipate we'll have enough doses on site to start giving it very shortly after it's approved — or authorized,” he said. “We're working on the logistics of when we can hold clinics and whether we'll be able to give them during well-child visits, or have to be in separate appointments.”

Getting shots into arms will have to wait until Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky makes a recommendation; that could follow CDC meetings next Tuesday and Wednesday on the Pfizer vaccine for children.

But doses can ship earlier — as soon as the Food and Drug Administration issues an emergency-use authorization. An FDA committee is meeting today.

Libby said the emergency authorization for ages 5 to 11 is not a concern, because the science hasn’t been compromised. The government review is what gets shortened.

“The emergency-use authorization process still required the same level of clinical data and the same level of clinical assurance that it's safe and effective,” he said.

The adult vaccines have received full approval.

Some parents and at least one local practitioner still have reservations about the vaccine. At Children’s Medical Associates of Nantucket, nurse practitioner Lou Arsenault said she plans to wait before giving it to children.

“Generally my rule of thumb with any vaccines is that I wait until it's been out for two years, even if it's gone through all the usual trials,” she said.

That contradicts the advice of many physicians, including Libby, who said the federal process ensures that the vaccine does not present a risk that would outweigh the benefit.

Dr. Sara “Sally” Goza, immediate past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told CAI the academy is looking forward to the federal data review.

“We're very excited because we feel like children in this age range deserve to be able to be vaccinated,” she said. “COVID, even though it's a low risk to children, that doesn't mean no risk.”

Libby said Outer Cape Health Services plans to offer the vaccine regardless of whether the child is a patient; clinic details have not been announced.

Bramblebush Pediatrics in Falmouth is planning a patients-only vaccination clinic for Nov. 9.