Some fear access to pediatric COVID vaccine could depend on where children live :: WRAL.com

Raleigh, NC — Although public health officials have not yet approved a coronavirus vaccine for children under 12, pediatricians and pharmacies in the area say parents are already busy booking appointments so their children can get their injections.

Pfizer announced Friday that its vaccine is more than 90 percent effective for children ages 5 to 11, and a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee will meet next Tuesday to determine whether vaccinations for children in that age group should be approved. Officials from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would then have to sign before any vaccinations can be administered.

The Department of Health and Human Services is already laying the groundwork so shots can get to young arms as soon as federal officials approve. The state has lined up more than 230 pediatricians, pharmacies and county health departments to distribute North Carolina’s initial allotment of 124,500 doses of pediatric vaccine.

While officials are committed to reaching every child, some health experts fear vaccine access may be determined by where a child lives. Wake County, for example, has 15 providers to help with giving shots, while many rural counties only have one or two.

Pediatric Vaccine Providers in Central NC

This is a preliminary list of providers that could participate in the first wave of administering coronavirus vaccinations to children ages 5 to 11.

NC Department of Health and Human Services

“I think we can definitely improve access better,” said Ritesh Patel, a pharmacist at Avance Care in Raleigh and Eastern Carolina Medical Center in Johnston County. “Our Medicaid kids and our underserved kids across the country are definitely the ones with a lot of health inequalities.”

Patel said the best way to reach everyone is to meet them where they already are, imagining schools and churches as locations for vaccination clinics.

“The problem is making sure the parents are there at the same time, more than likely, and things like that, so I think we’re going to have to work together,” he said.

DHHS officials have said they are working on a series of “family vaccination pop-up” sites to offer pediatric vaccines, regular vaccines for ages 12 and older, and booster shots. Those sites are expected to launch in a few weeks, but locations have not yet been announced.

“Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming. It would be great to protect all these children so that the grandparents and all the immunocompromised patients who could still get a breakthrough infection are safe,” Patel said.

Because the list of providers delivering the shots is likely to be fluid, DHHS officials say the best way for parents and families to find a location nearby is to visit MySpot.nc.gov or toll-free 888- call 675-4567. People can also text their zip code to 438829 to find vaccine locations near them.

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