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Whitmer admin preps for Pfizer vaccine authorization for kids; pre-orders 287K doses

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has directed her state agencies to begin preparing to make vaccines readily available for children ages 5 to 11 in anticipation of federal emergency authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for that age group.

The governor's administration has pre-ordered about 287,700 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be ready for the eventual federal approvals. 

In a Tuesday executive directive, Whitmer ordered the state departments of Health and Human Services and Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to "take all appropriate action" to make the vaccine available to kids as soon as they're eligible to receive it. 

"This is a game-changer for our kids that will protect them as they continue to learn in-person in the classroom this school year, participate in extracurricular activities, or see friends and family this holiday season," Whitmer said in a statement.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks before President Joe Biden at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 in Howell on Oct. 5, 2021.

"My directive today ensures equitable, expedited distribution of the vaccines. Parents should sign up to protect their kids.”  

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Tuesday voted unanimously, with one abstention, that the vaccine’s benefits in preventing COVID-19 for children age 5 through 11 years old outweigh any potential risks. The FDA is expected to make its own decision within days. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is scheduled to meet next week to consider the FDA's recommendations. Pfizer has said its vaccine is nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in kids ages 5-11.

In her directive, Whitmer told the state departments to encourage pediatricians and other providers to receive education, training and enrollment to administer the vaccine, especially to those who might encounter barriers to access. 

The directive encourages the departments to promote the vaccine in health facilities serving kids in grades K-12, pharmacies, community clinics and local health departments.

"The directors must regularly report to me on the proportion of children ages 5 to 11 who have received a COVID-19 vaccine, including in these reports the status of pediatric vaccination in areas with higher social vulnerability," Whitmer wrote.

Currently Michigan records indicate about 67% of Michigan residents over the age of 12 have received at least their first dose of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines, according to the state health department.

“Vaccinating kids and teens against COVID will protect their health, allow them to re-engage more safely in activities they’ve missed out on this past year, and protect more vulnerable classmates and family members,” Dr. Matthew Hornik, president of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians, said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com