Galveston County health providers have ordered thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccines in preparation to begin inoculations for children ages 5 to 11 years old.
Galveston County Local Health Authority Dr. Philip Keiser said he expected vaccinations for that age group would begin as soon as federal health officials announce their approval, which is expected in the first week of November.
Vaccinations probably would ramp up the week after that, he said.
About 60,000 children in the county are younger than age 12. Keiser expects about half of the soon-to-be-eligible group would be vaccinated, he said.
Pfizer last week released data showing its vaccine was safe and effective in children ages 5 through 11.
Approval to begin inoculating children might come soon after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory board meets Nov. 2-3.
Moderna on Monday announced similar protection levels for its vaccine, approval of which would likely come soon after approval of the Pfizer vaccine.
More than 25,000 health-care providers already have signed on to dispense the vaccines to elementary school children, in addition to the tens of thousands of pharmacies that already are administering shots to adults, the White House said.
A high rate of vaccinations among school-age children could put to bed debates about requirements for COVID precautions such as face coverings.
Although children typically don’t suffer severe COVID symptoms, they can be carriers that infect more vulnerable people, such as teachers and family members, Keiser said.
There was no immediate plan to reopen a mass vaccination hub in League City, Keiser said. Most vaccinations would be done in clinics and doctors’ offices, he said.
The health district has been in contact with superintendents about COVID vaccinations, but it still was unclear how involved school districts would be in getting vaccines to children.
When vaccines opened up to children older than 12 years, some districts, including Texas City, held in-school vaccination events.
“We probably won’t be seeing drive-throughs and those types of things,” Keiser said. “We may be doing some things with the schools as a kickoff.”
The Galveston school district’s Teen Health Center clinics are preparing to go to elementary and middle schools over coming weeks to offer vaccines to students, Executive Director Angie Brown said.
“As soon it’s authorized, we’ll be able to hit the ground running,” Brown said.
The Texas City Independent School District is scheduling in-school vaccination events but hadn’t finalized plans, spokeswoman Melissa Tortorici said.
“We will handle it like we have in the past by letting parents know via their email and phone, social media and our website,” Tortorici said. “We provide parent permission forms and allow students, their families and other community members to come during the day if they choose to participate.”
The Dickinson Independent School District also is working with the health district to schedule an in-school vaccination event. The Clear Creek Independent School District doesn’t have any plans to offer in-school vaccinations.
Every school district in the county was asked Monday to distribute a survey asking parents how likely they were to have their children vaccinated and where they would prefer the vaccinations to be given.
Vaccinating children likely won’t happen as quickly as with older age groups because administering shots to younger people takes longer, Keiser said.
“When you’re talking about 5-year-olds, some of them just don’t want to get stuck,” Keiser said. “The general consensus, talking to pediatricians, is to do it in a more defused effort rather than a more focused effort.”