What are the next steps toward vaccinating younger children?
It's a waiting game now for parents eager to get their children between ages 5 and 11 vaccinated against COVID-19.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Nov. 2 and 3 to discuss and eventually make a recommendation to the CDC administration.
While approval seems to be a foregone conclusion, there's not much parents or vaccine providers can do until authorization from federal regulators comes. But plans are in the works on many fronts to offer the vaccine to those who want it.
"We have worked with the Illinois chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians to encourage providers to become COVID-19 vaccine providers and to help them prepare to receive and administer vaccine," said DuPage County Health spokeswoman Mila Tsagalis. "These partnerships assure that vaccination sites will be available at multiple and convenient, child-friendly locations throughout the county."
Q. When authorized, how long before the vaccine is available to that age group?
A. It will likely be immediate, given past practices. When the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved for children between ages 12 and 15 in May, parents were able to make appointments the next day.
Q. Will pediatricians be ready?
A. Some pediatricians are already stocked with doses of the vaccine for their older patients, and many hospital systems have already placed orders for additional doses to have on hand when approval comes.
"We have placed an initial order for the pediatric-specific COVID-19 vaccine and are taking the necessary steps to be able to vaccinate the pediatric population at the Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Downers Grove," said Dr. Michelle Meziere, co-chair of Edward-Elmhurst Health's COVID-19 incident command.
Q. Should I make an appointment with my child's pediatrician now?
A. Most pediatricians are urging parents to wait until approval comes before trying to schedule an appointment. Several suburban pediatricians are also planning to hold special clinics when approval comes, similar to how they handle annual flu vaccinations. Notifications will be sent to families. However, because the vaccine has specific storage temperature requirements, some pediatricians won't be able to offer walk-in services.
Q. Should I wait until it's offered by my child's pediatrician?
A. Most epidemiologists and public health officials say no.
"The Cook County Department of Public Health's assessment of vaccine provider capacity shows that we as a county have an incredibly high capacity to provide COVID-19 vaccine to anyone who wants it," said Dr. Jacqueline Korpics, medical director of COVID-19 response at Cook County's public health department.
Health departments will likely create special clinics throughout the suburbs as well as work with pharmacies and schools to offer vaccinations to anyone who wants it.
And national pharmacy chains also have resources in place to handle the expected surge in demand.
Q. Are there other location options to get children vaccinated?
A. Many youth-oriented organizations stepped up in the summer to provide clinics for children participating in those programs. Interested parents should check with park districts, churches or scout groups to see if a vaccination clinic will be offered.