Emergency OK for kids' COVID-19 shots expected soon, Ventura County official says
COVID-19 vaccines for young children could be available across Ventura County in two weeks, the county's health officer said Tuesday.
Dr. Robert Levin told the county Board of Supervisors that federal and state authorities could give emergency approval in early November to Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for children ages 5 to 11. The vaccines would likely contain about one-third of the potency of the Pfizer shot approved for older people. Two doses would be needed.
About 1.2 million shots of the vaccine are expected to become available statewide in the first week after approval, Levin said.He wasn't sure how many of the shots would be sent to Ventura County.
On Monday, hundreds of people across the county protested astate mandate that will require COVID vaccinations for all eligible studentsin kindergarten through grade 12. Levin said the expected emergency approval does not mean the mandate will immediately begin.
Instead, the requirement would start in the school term that follows the government's full approval of vaccines for children. The requirement could kick in for students in grade 7 through 12 as soon as January if federal authorities give full approval for the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and older. Younger students would be phased in during a later term.
COVID-19 booster shots:Should you get it? What to know about side effects
Supervisor Kelly Long said she wanted parents to know the mandate is being driven by the state, not county government.
“I feel for parents. To me, it should be a choice and not a mandate,” she said.
The availability of the vaccine for younger children plays a role in determining how long the county’s order requiring indoor masks stays in place. Levin announced Monday the mandate will remain until three benchmarks are hit:
- Lowering the county’s COVID-19 case rate from 9.5 cases a day per 100,000 people to no more than 7 cases per 100,000 people. The rate would have to be maintained for at least three weeks.
- Stabilizing the volume of patients hospitalized for COVID-19.
- Either waiting eight weeks after a vaccine for younger children gains state and federal approval or vaccinating at least 80% of the county's eligible population.
Levin said Tuesday the eight-week waiting period is designed to provide ample opportunity for younger children to be vaccinated.
Seeking the swab:Navigating the changed landscape of COVID-19 testing in county
“We want to see an increase in the immunity in our county," he said."The more people who have immunity the more difficulty the COVID virus has in finding a host to infect.”
Levin said one benchmark – reaching stable levels of hospitalizations – - is already within reach, but it will probably take until late December or January for all three goals to be met, he said.
During public comments, Nicholas Panico challenged the need for mandates and called for the county to lift its state of emergency, now nearly two years into the pandemic.
"We're long overdue for a return to normal," he said.
Last week, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel voted to recommend Moderna booster shots for people at elevated risk of COVID exposure or complications. The panel also voted to recommend recommended boosters for all people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. A panel for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to consider the boosters this week.
Levin told supervisors the boosters could be available for use by the end of the week. He also said it appears likely regulators will soon allow the mixing of doses, meaning,for example, a person who received a Johnson & Johnson dose could get a booster of Moderna or Pfizer.
Tom Kisken covers health care and other news for the Ventura County Star. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0255.
SUPPORT LOCAL JOURNALISM: To see more stories like this, subscribe here.