Washington families will soon be able to get all members fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as health officials expect vaccines to become available to kids under age 5 beginning next week.
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Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Assistant Secretary Michele Roberts and Chief Science Officer Tao Kwan-Gett provided an update on the vaccination approval process Thursday. An FDA panel approved the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for kids under 5 Wednesday.
“We’ve been learning a lot about COVID vaccines in real time,” Roberts said. “Our youngest children often need a different formulation of vaccines. We have to decide what is the right dose to make sure we can fully protect them and that’s the work that’s been happening behind the scenes in clinical trials to be ready to offer vaccines to our youngest kids.”
The vaccines could be available as early as Monday or Tuesday next week, pending federal approval, Roberts said. The FDA’s advisory committee will make a final decision on the vaccines in the coming days and the CDC’s advisory committee will also make a recommendation on the vaccines.
The Western States Scientific Review Workgroup will also review the vaccines’ effectiveness, Roberts said. The workgroup consists of health experts from Washington, California, Oregon, and Nevada.
“They make a recommendation to each of our governors in those four states,” Roberts said.
Kwan-Gett said he has faith the vaccines will be safe for kids under 5 based on recent experiments and tests.
“Thousands of infants and toddlers have received the vaccine and no serious side effects have been seen,” Kwan-Gett said. “I think we can be very confident in the safety of the vaccine for kids under 5.”
If the vaccines are approved, the federal government will start shipping them to Washington and other states on Monday, Roberts said.
“It will arrive in the state on Monday in smaller amounts, but then more will come throughout the rest of the week,” Roberts said. “It will take the week to have the vaccine available in most provider offices across the state. But health care providers are already ordering the vaccine so we’ll know where to ship it. Throughout next week, more doses will be coming into the state.”
Kwan-Gett said there will be plenty of doses available, although it could take time to distribute them to every health care provider who orders them.
“It might be that in the first several days the vaccine comes out it might not be available at your specific pharmacy close to your home or your provider might not have it yet,” Kwan-Gett said. “But they will eventually. We don’t anticipate any shortages. You can use the vaccine locator to find where it’s available.”
Kwan-Gett said he was unsure if or when boosters will become available for kids under 5.
“The pandemic has impacted everybody personally and professionally,” Roberts said. “But families with children under 5 have waited the longest and have not had a vaccine available. It’s been really hard and impacted families’ abilities to work and [also impacted] child care. This is going to help create a sense of normalcy and an additional level of safety.”