SEARHC could receive vaccines for children this week

The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium has placed its order with the state for COVID-19 vaccination doses for children as young as 6 months old, and could start distributing them to its facilities across the region this week.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday approved the children’s doses of Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech.

“At this point in time we do not have pediatric vaccine clinics scheduled, as we are waiting for approval and a definite timeframe for receiving our supply of vaccines,” Randi Yancey, SEARHC medical office coordinator in Wrangell, said in an email last week.

“Once approved, we will hold vaccine clinics on an as-needed and ongoing basis depending on the volume of demand,” she said. Parents who are interested in getting their children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old vaccinated can call the Wrangell Medical Center at 907-874-7000 to schedule an appointment.

SEARHC continues to offer vaccination shots to older children and adults, also by appointment only.

“We are not currently offering walk-ins or same-day appointments for COVID vaccines,” Yancey said last week. “The reason being that Pfizer vaccine comes in six-dose vials and Moderna in 10 full-dose or 20 booster-dose vials, so we continue to try and group patients together for vaccine clinics in an effort to reduce waste of the vaccine,” she explained.

“Once the seal is punctured the doses have to be used within six hours, then any remaining doses are discarded.”

Advisers to the CDC recommended the vaccines for the littlest children and the final sign-off came hours later on Saturday from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the agency’s director. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisers gave their approval to the vaccines a few days earlier.

“We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can,” Walensky said in a statement on Saturday.

While the Food and Drug Administration approves vaccines, it’s the CDC that decides who should get them.

The shots offer young children protection from hospitalization, death and possible long-term complications, the CDC’s advisory panel said.

The government has been gearing up for the vaccine expansion, with millions of doses ordered for distribution to doctors, hospitals and community health clinics around the country.

Roughly 18 million kids will be eligible. Less than a third of children ages 5 to 11 have been vaccinated since the FDA and CDC approved doses for them last November.

Pfizer’s vaccine is for children 6 months to 4 years old. The dose is one-tenth of the adult dose, and three shots are needed. The first two are given three weeks apart, and the last at least two months later.

Moderna’s is two shots, each a quarter of its adult dose, given about four weeks apart for kids 6 months through 5 years old. In studies, vaccinated youngsters developed levels of virus-fighting antibodies as strong as young adults, suggesting that the kid-size doses protect against Coronavirus infections.

Vaccinations have been available for adults since December 2020. In that time, SEARHC has administered almost 40,000 doses at its facilities around Southeast, according to its latest website posting June 6.

Of those, more than 3,500 have been in Wrangell. That includes the first and second shots, and boosters.

As of last week, about 68% of eligible people in Wrangell — ages 5 years old and above — had received a vaccine shot, a few percentage points behind the statewide number, according to state health data. Wrangell’s vaccination rate is the lowest in Southeast.

About 36% of eligible people in Wrangell have received a booster.

Among Wrangell adults ages 65 and older, the vaccination rate is 79%, with 60% having received a booster, as of last week’s state Health Department tally.

Just under 28% of Wrangell children ages 5 to 11 years old have received their first dose of a vaccine, according to the state website. The number is 49% for youth ages 12 to 18 years old.

As of the state’s June 15 tally, 640 COVID-19 cases had been reported in Wrangell, with seven hospitalizations and one death. Statewide, the total was 268,087 confirmed cases, 3,900 hospitalizations and 1,286 deaths.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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