Raleigh, NC — North Carolina will have enough pediatric coronavirus vaccine available to start administering shots once federal regulators give final approval to immunize children ages 5 to 11, state officials said Wednesday.
A Food & Drug Administration advisory panel on Tuesday approved a smaller dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine to prevent infection in children in that age group, saying the benefits of receiving the injection outweigh the potential risks.
FDA officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have yet to agree to vaccinate children, but once they do, shots could begin as early as late next week in North Carolina, according to Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the State Department of Health and Human Services.
The state expects to receive 411,000 doses of the pediatric vaccine in three waves over the course of nine business days. That would be enough for nearly half of the estimated 892,795 children statewide who would qualify for vaccination.
“There will be plenty of supply,” Cohen said.
DHHS has deployed more than 750 providers statewide, including pediatricians, county health departments and pharmacies, to administer the vaccinations, she said. The department also plans to set up vaccination sites for families, she said.
Pediatricians are already preparing for a stampede once childhood vaccines are approved. A doctor who expects the vaccine to be in high demand suggested that parents now call their pediatrician to make an appointment.
Cohen said the state plans to launch a public service campaign to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated, using “trusted messengers” and focusing on FDA and CDC safety findings.
Fifty-five percent of North Carolinas are fully vaccinated, and 59 percent have had at least one dose of the two-dose schedule required for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Cohen and Governor Roy Cooper attributed the slow but steady increase in vaccinations to the decline in new infections and virus-related hospitalizations in North Carolina.
The state reported another 2,160 cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, which is 17 percent lower than a week ago, and the number of positive virus tests remains close to the state’s target of 5 percent. About 1,400 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, the number since Aug. 1.
Local doctors are encouraging people to get a flu shot in addition to the coronavirus vaccination. As mask mandates and social distancing have declined, people are more at risk for the flu this year, experts say.