Pima County Health Department unveiled a vaccination strategy for children ages 5 to 11 in anticipation of the FDA and CDC approval of the Pfizer COVID vaccine. 

The County has pre-ordered 11,400 doses of pediatric Pfizer vaccines destined for 15 different vaccination locations, said Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County chief medical officer and deputy county administrator. The pediatric vaccines will contain a third of the typical dose.

“We anticipate that those doses will ship sometime very early next week and be prepositioned in those sites so that when the Centers for Disease Control, the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices, makes their recommendation, we are able to pivot relatively quickly and start delivering doses to those children,” Garcia said in an Oct. 29 press conference. 

Pediatric doses will be critical to lowering school outbreak case numbers because the highest number of school COVID cases are coming from the non-vaccine eligible age group, he said.

There are 77 providers in Pima County that are pre-approved for pediatric vaccine roll-out and Garcia said the county wants to make the process easy for parents. If schools approve, the county will provide mobile vaccination clinics to school campuses.

“If we can make meaningful inroads with the vaccination of children, that number will decrease at least by half and we'll have favorable results,” Garcia said.

Vaccinated children in the 5 to 11 age group will reduce COVID cases in Pima County and protect household members who live with children. It still remains unclear how pediatric COVID infections will affect children long-term, but an infection could affect a child’s neurological development.

“Even transient anosmia, one of the most common COVID-19 side effects, could negatively impact the brain development of children,” Chief Deputy County Administrator Jan Lesher told the Pima County Board of Supervisors in a memo. “One study found that 22% of pediatric COVID-19 or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) patients had documented neurological involvement.”