DHEC encourages vaccines for kids under 5 following CDC approval, expects to begin administering shots this week

FILE: Three year-old Fletcher Pack watches as his mother, McKenzie Pack, fills out paperwork...
FILE: Three year-old Fletcher Pack watches as his mother, McKenzie Pack, fills out paperwork prior to receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination at Walgreens pharmacy Monday, June 20, 2022, in Lexington, S.C. Today marked the first day COVID-19 vaccinations were made available to children under 5 in the United States.(AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 2:04 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is providing details on its plans to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for the youngest children.

This comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines for this age group, those between the ages of six month to five years old, over the weekend.

According to DHEC, 27,800 doses of each vaccine have been pre-ordered. This is only the state’s initial allocation.

Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC’s Public Health Director, said that the doses have not arrived yet, but are expected to arrive later this week.

She said that DHEC will begin administering vaccines to the youngest population at some point this week but declined to provide an exact date.

“We are first of all very excited that this happened this weekend because this really is the last piece of that puzzle in terms of eligibility for vaccination,” Traxler said.

Traxler said that staff has been training to ensure they are comfortable administering COVID-19 vaccines to this age group.

DHEC will be offering these free vaccines at many of its vaccine clinics, including health departments.

Its vaccine locator will list the clinics that have the vaccine available.

“It will show on there, ‘6 months to 5 years old’ if that’s a site that on that day is offering the youngest pediatric vaccine,” she said.

DHEC is also working with local pediatricians and other providers to ensure they have a supply of these vaccines if they choose to offer it.

Pfizer’s vaccine is one tenth the adult dose, and three shots are needed. The company said it has an 80 percent efficacy rate.

Moderna’s vaccine will be administered as two shots, each a quarter of the adult dose, which are to be given four weeks apart. Its effectiveness ranged from 40 to 50 percent against symptomatic COVID-19.

Moderna’s vaccine is two shots, each a quarter of the adult dose, and is given four weeks apart.

“Having a safe and effective vaccine for this youngest age group is great news for South Carolinians,” DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer said. “While most children experience relatively mild or even no symptoms if they are infected with COVID-19, severe cases and even deaths in young children can occur, and they can easily spread the virus to family members, especially those who are elderly or immunocompromised. Getting this younger age group vaccinated will go a long way in our ongoing efforts to control the impacts of COVID-19 and keep our families safe, especially as we get further into the summer months.”

Dr. Deborah Greenhouse, a Columbia-based pediatrician, encourages parents with any questions about these vaccines to reach out to their child’s healthcare provider.

She said she is “very relieved” about this approval and is comfortable with the decision made by the CDC after studying the data.

“I know that the FDA has looked with a fine-tooth comb at this data, and I know that the CDC has looked with a fine-tooth comb at the data,” she said. “And I know that a little while ago, Pfizer chose not to go through with submitting their data because it wasn’t strong enough when they were looking at two doses. So, they added a third dose and they looked at the data again. And that should be really reassuring to folks.”

Greenhouse added that the federal agencies have had additional time to review safety data, and have not seen any “significant signals or severe safety problems” from either of the two vaccines.

According to Greenhouse, a young child who has already had COVID-19 is still recommended to receive this vaccine.

She said she has seen children in her office who have had COVID-19 multiple times, and that there is no way to tell whether a second or third bout could be more severe.

There is also evidence that children, including the youngest children, are at risk of long COVID-19 symptoms, Greenhouse said.

With this approval, roughly 18 million kids will now be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Less than a third of children ages five to 11 have been vaccinated at this point.

To find out where you can get the vaccine, visit DHEC’s vaccine locater.

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