Northwest Pediatrics Prepares to Vaccinate Kids Against COVID-19, But Pfizer ‘Persnickety’ for Rural Communities
By Claudia Yaw / [email protected]
As the race to vaccinate against COVID-19 continues, pediatricians are gearing up for when the Pfizer vaccine will be approved for children as young as 12 years old. But with tougher temperature requirements, a shorter shelf life, and batches of 1,170 doses, the Pfizer vaccine poses hurdles – especially for rural communities like Lewis County.
Simply put, the Pfizer vaccine is “persnickety,” according to Northwest Pediatrics Medical Director Dr. Jennifer Polley. Batch size alone is a problem for small clinics in small communities.
“As of last week, I couldn’t place an order for Pfizer because I can’t take 1100 doses,” Polley told The Chronicle. ‘We just can’t. We don’t have the opportunity. We couldn’t use all of them. It’s a statewide problem for rural communities. “
However, Northwest Pediatrics has already administered Pfizer doses. The vaccine is the only one approved for people aged 16 or 17, and the children’s clinic has organized vaccine events for locals up to 26 years old.
But to get their hands on Pfizer, Northwest Pediatrics and other clinics nationwide must use some sort of middleman: larger clinics that can order the large lots from the state and then transfer smaller quantities to smaller clinics.
In the case of Northwest Pediatrics, Polley himself made the drive to Olympia to pick up the 66 doses – just 11 vials – needed for one clinic. She made the trip in her personal car on Monday.
While the transfer is above board and tracked by the state, Polley noted that not all small children’s clinics necessarily have the connections or relationships to transfer those smaller amounts from other providers.
News outlets reported late this week that Pfizer would start shipping smaller amounts of their COVID-19 vaccine to suppliers. But the shift may not occur until the end of May.
It is an effort to reach more people looking for a vaccine, and reflects the increasingly focused approach to vaccination that public health officials have taken in recent weeks. For example, in Lewis County, public health officials announced this week that they will set up small clinics run by the Washington Army National Guard to parks, apartment complexes, or wherever at least 20 local residents want to get vaccinated.
As children become the new vaccination limits, Northwest Pediatrics will be committed to vaccinating young people, who can come to vaccine clinics, regardless of whether they are existing patients in the clinic. Polley said the hope is to run multiple Pfizer clinics per week.
While most young people who contract COVID-19 don’t develop serious symptoms, experts say vaccinating children will be critical to ending the pandemic. The long-term effects of COVID-19 on children are still unclear. And even if children get COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, transmission and replication means that the virus can continue to mutate, creating variants that are more deadly or transmissible and that can fuel a new wave of disease.
“Maybe the B.1.1.7 will make it a little bit more transferable, or the B.220.127.116.11 will be a little bit sicker,” Polley said. But what happens when those mutations come together? Do you see what I mean? “
Polley said parents naturally have questions and concerns about vaccinating their children, and a common question is whether or not caregivers would dose their own children.
“One hundred percent. Two hundred percent. Two thousand percent,” she said. “We would never give it if we didn’t think it was right.”
Pfizer vaccines will be available to anyone aged 16 to 26 at the Cooks Hill Road site of Northwest Pediatrics in 1911 this Tuesday and Thursday. To make an appointment, call 360-736-6778 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.