The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends COVID-19 shots for children ages 5 to 11, opening the way to vaccination for approximately 167,000 children in Santa Clara County.
A CDC advisory committee voted Tuesday to recommend the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children. The agency’s director, Rochelle Walensky, has final approval, which experts say is highly likely to follow the panel’s recommendation.
The CDC’s announcement comes days after a similar recommendation from the Food and Drug Administration, which determined the benefits of a shot outweigh any potential risk to children. According to CDC data, there have been 1.9 million positive COVID-19 cases among children ages 5 to 11. Of those, there have been 8,300 hospitalizations and at least 94 deaths.
“I have seen the devastating effects of COVID-19 infection,” said Dr. Pamela Rockwell, liaison for the American Academy of Family Physicians, speaking to the committee before the vote. She noted that vaccinations will help spare children the physical and emotional trauma caused by long-haul COVID. “Vaccination in children 5-11 years of age will not only help prevent COVID infection… but will also help children emotionally and socially to improve their development.”
Santa Clara County health officials, anticipating the approval of vaccinations, recently announced plans to receive younger residents at vaccination sites. The county ordered 55,000 pediatric shots, and approximately 11,000 doses will be available at pharmacies.
COVID-19 infections are down from the highs seen this summer, following a wave of positive cases caused by the Delta variant. Santa Clara County has a seven-day average of 148 new cases as of Tuesday. Relatively few infections have been reported at San Jose schools.
As of Tuesday, approximately 85.3% of Santa Clara County residents ages 12 and up—more than 1.46 million people—are fully vaccinated. When children under 12 are included, the overall completion rate for vaccinations drops to 73.3%.
Santa Clara County recently established criteria for lifting indoor mask mandates. That requirement is an 80% vaccination rate, meaning roughly 55% of children need to be vaccinated.
This is now within reach due to the CDC’s recommendation. Dr. George Rutherford, professor of epidemiology at UC San Francisco, told San José Spotlight vaccinating children could also lead to herd immunity in the Bay Area.
He noted that the logistics of distributing vaccination doses will be potentially challenging, observing that the first shipment of pediatric vaccination doses to California is roughly one-third of what the state needs.
“But I suspect it’ll roll out pretty smoothly,” he said. “The big players, Kaiser, Sutter, will have their own clinics, and others may have something more decentralized, like individual physician offices.”