COVID-19 vaccines for infants, toddlers available at Cincinnati Children's this week

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Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center will begin COVID-19 vaccination appointments for children ages 6 months to 4 years old Wednesday on the heels of young infants and toddlers getting the vaccination go-ahead earlier this month.

The Pfizer vaccine, which is a three-shot series for that age group, will be available at Cincinnati Children’s Avondale campus on June 29. Vaccine clinics will become available at the Liberty Township campus the following day. Both clinics are by reservation only.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were authorized for emergency use for those as young as 6 months old on June 17 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But with vaccination rates for those under 17 lagging behind older age groups, some local counties aren't sure what demand for COVID-19 vaccines will look like in a few weeks and long term.

COVID-19 Pfizer BioNTech vaccine doses for children ages 5 to 11 arrive at the Hamilton County Public Health Department in 2021. Soon, health departments will receive more vaccines for those as young as 6 months old.
COVID-19 Pfizer BioNTech vaccine doses for children ages 5 to 11 arrive at the Hamilton County Public Health Department in 2021. Soon, health departments will receive more vaccines for those as young as 6 months old.

COVID-19 vaccines and kids: What parents need to know

After having its emergency use authorization amended, the Moderna vaccine is approved for use in those 6 months through 17 years old. The Pfizer vaccine can now be given to those 6 months through 4 years old.

Parents of Cincinnati Children’s patients can contact their pediatrician’s office to schedule an appointment. If more than one young child is being vaccinated, a parent or guardian must call 513-517-1100 during regular business hours to schedule the appointment. The same must be done if a family member of any age is being vaccinated at the same time as the infant or toddler.

There are still a few more steps before health departments can start offering vaccines to this new age group, though.

Most places wait for a standing order from a physician before rolling out the vaccine, said Julianne Nesbit, health commissioner at Clermont County Public Health. Once a vaccine has been recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it takes about 24 to 48 hours for a physician to issue a standing order. From there, nurses will do some refresher training on the new product.

It normally takes about a week after final approvals for Clermont County Public Health to offer new vaccines after they are recommended, Nesbit said.

The CDC's children and teen COVID-19 vaccine recommendation page was last updated June 19. It recommends vaccination for all those 6 months and older.

Nesbit said Clermont County Public Health has four full-time nurses who provide vaccines at clinics alongside two nurses who joined the staff during the pandemic. Vaccine clinics are available from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-3 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays.

Nesbit said the department ordered 200 doses of the vaccine and can order more weekly.

"It's just to see what we would end up getting initially to start with," she said.

Brittaney Gabbard, director of nursing at Butler County General Health District, said it should receive the vaccine any day. She said 100 doses of Pfizer – the minimum amount – were ordered because the district was unsure what demand will look like.

"There's a lot of hesitancy as it is already with childhood vaccinations," Gabbard said. "And then COVID has always been just a hot topic on what's the right thing to do for your child, especially this young of a child."

Gabbard said Butler County has about 24,000 unvaccinated kids in the 5-11 age group, which is the highest out of all age groups.

Butler County gives a glimpse into how younger individuals are lagging behind in COVID-19 vaccinations. A recent Enquirer analysis of CDC vaccination data shows that just over a quarter of the 242,000 children in the 16-county Cincinnati region have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Franklin County, Indiana, had the least with 11.8%.

The most important thing for parents and guardians to do when considering vaccinating their child is to contact their pediatrician, Nesbit said. New information is released in emergency use authorizations, so parents should read those and be prepared with questions for their pediatrician.

"They're going to know the child better than what we do," Nesbit said. "We may only see a child for an immunization appointment, where the pediatrician is going to see them on a routine basis."

In preparation for the authorization, departments such as Hamilton County Public Health have made sure all its vaccine nurses have pediatric experience.

While others are expecting low demand, they are still staying stocked with vaccines and welcoming parents and guardians to bring children to their clinics.

"We always, of course, recommend that they talk to their pediatrician or family doctor first to get their recommendation, but it's not something that we're going to turn away for any reason whatsoever," Gabbard said.

"Anyone's welcome to come here, and we'll have it in stock. And, it's readily available, so if we start to run low, we can order it and almost get it the same week."

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati ready for COVID-19 infant, toddler vaccines after approval