Maine health care professionals are poised to immediately begin vaccinating the state’s 5- to 11-year-olds against the coronavirus if and when a vaccine is approved for the age group.
An official from Northern Light Health said Wednesday that the Brewer-based network was working with partners like the School Nurses Association and the state Department of Education to help kids begin receiving COVID-19 shots in school clinics once regulators signed off.
The White House rolled out its plan to vaccinate 28 million kids between 5 and 11 on Wednesday morning, which emphasized the use of pediatric and primary care offices, pharmacies and school health clinics to reach youngsters and help them get inoculated.
Northern Light pediatricians are prepared to administer the Pfizer shot to children both at their offices and in schools once the vaccine is approved, said Dr. James Jarvis, senior physician executive for the hospital network’s COVID-19 response.
“In addition, we’ll be able to do that vaccination through our retail pharmacies,” Jarvis said during a Wednesday call with Maine media.
Pfizer and German partner BioNTech asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve its vaccine for children under 12 earlier this month.
An FDA advisory committee is expected to convene next Tuesday to discuss authorizing the Pfizer vaccine for kids, Dr. Nirav Shah, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s executive director, said Wednesday.
United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisers will meet Nov. 2 and 3 to discuss that data and “potentially offer clinical recommendations for whether and under what conditions children aged 5 to 11 should get the Pfizer shot,” Shah said during a separate media conference.
If it is approved, Maine will be immediately ready to deploy its medical professionals to help kids get the jab.
“We’re focusing our approach on making as many channels available for vaccination as possible,” Shah said. School-based vaccination clinics will be the “mainstay” of the state’s campaign to get kids vaccinated.
The state’s approach for kids will be more nimble than in the early months of the adult vaccination campaign, noting that many logistical challenges like how to store vaccine supplies have been solved, Shah said.
Smaller vaccine package sizes will also help, he said.
Early on, the Pfizer vaccine package size came in “1,170 doses, which makes it really difficult, if you’re a small physician’s office, to know you’ve got to use that many vaccines. But now, it will be ordered initially in lots of 300,” Shah said, with plans to scale down to 100 doses two weeks after that.
Teams from the Maine CDC, Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services are also “fanning out” around the state to touch base with schools and school administrative units about their vaccination plans, Shah said.
This includes taking stock of whether they need help setting up clinics, finding a provider to connect with them, and tallying the number of kids between 5 and 11 in those communities.
“The response from schools, as it has been throughout the pandemic, has been uniformly positive,” he said. “And I’m so delighted for the partnership that we have with schools and school officials.”