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Metro Detroit health departments preparing plans to vaccinate kids

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — Metro Detroit health departments are developing plans to vaccinate young children against COVID-19 as they await emergency authorization for pediatric use of the vaccine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC sign off, vaccines could be available in November to Michigan’s 825,000 children between the ages of 5 through 11.

The Oakland County Health Division said Wednesday that it is collaborating with local school districts on how to best rollout the doses and has placed preliminary orders for the vaccine following the CDC's anticipated approval. Officials in Wayne and Macomb counties said they too are anticipating providing the vaccinations as quickly as possible.

Oakland County said it will release details on pediatric COVID-19 vaccine clinics after the CDC approves it for emergency use in younger children and issues guidelines. More than 276,000 eligible residents in Oakland County remain unvaccinated, officials noted.

Oakland County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Russell Faust said Wednesday the more residents who get vaccinated against COVID-19, "the closer we will be to slowing the pandemic to manageable levels.” Health officials in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties say they are preparing for the anticipated federal approval of the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in children ages 5 through 11.

“Immunizing residents who remain unvaccinated is vital to limiting the transmission of COVID-19,” Oakland County Health Division Medical Director Dr. Russell Faust said in a statement. “The more residents who get the COVID-19 vaccine, the closer we will be to slowing the pandemic to manageable levels.”

The counties are preparing plans for administering pediatric doses as Michigan on Wednesday reported another 7,867 cases of the virus and 142 deaths over two days and the highest seven-day rolling average of daily cases since May. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday issued an executive directive to state departments and agencies to expedite the ordering and distribution of Pfizer vaccinations for children ages 5 through 11 in Michigan. The state has pre-ordered 287,700 doses of the vaccine to ensure a supply is on hand when approval is granted.

According to the manufacturer, the Pfizer vaccine is more than 90% effective for the younger age group.

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

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is set to meet next week to consider the FDA's recommendation. 

In Wayne County, health officials have requested additional vaccines to be able to accommodate and administer pediatric vaccines once they are approved, said Tiffini Jackson, a spokeswoman for Wayne County.

"We will continue to work with the schools and providers in Wayne County as a resource and partner," she said. "We’re in the process of contacting schools to offer on-site vaccination clinics. We will also continue to schedule an in-home vaccination appointment."

Andrew Cox, health officer of Macomb County's Health Department, said when new populations are approved by the CDC for COVID-19 vaccines “we have responded by making the vaccine available to those individuals as quickly as possible" and "this will be no different."

“In anticipation of the authorization for pediatric doses of COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11 years old, we are planning on integrating operations to serve this population into health department vaccination clinics in Clinton Township and Warren," he said. 

“In addition, we will continue our ongoing partnership with our pediatricians and with the Macomb Intermediate School District as well as Macomb County school districts to pursue opportunities to make the vaccine available to this important audience as quickly and efficiently as possible."

About 73.4% of Oakland County residents ages 12 and up have received at least one vaccine dose. That's compared with 71% in outer-Wayne and Washtenaw counties, 62.5% in Macomb County and 46.1% in Detroit, where the vaccination rate has lagged. Overall, 63.7% of residents in Michigan have received at least one dose, state data shows.

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