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Nearly 3 million Texas kids are now eligible for Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine

 Charlie, 7, gets the COVID-19 vaccine while on his mother’s lap, on Nov. 3, 2021.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
Charlie, 7, gets the COVID-19 vaccine while on his mother’s lap, on Nov. 3, 2021.

About 2.9 million Texas children between the ages of 5 and 11 are now eligible for Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, after federal health officials signed off on the shots.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the lower-dose shot for younger kids on Tuesday, just days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized it for emergency use. The FDA says the vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in children 5 through 11.

Texas health officials announced the state is set to receive more than 1.3 million doses of the pediatric vaccine over the next week. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the CDC will deliver just over 1 million doses to 900 providers across the state. Another 349,200 doses will be delivered to hundreds of pharmacies through a federal program.

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So far, more than 400,000 doses have already arrived in Texas, with another 162,000 expected Wednesday.

“Vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11 helps to protect all Texans from COVID-19,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner, in a press release.

“22 Texas children between the ages of 5 and 11 have died from complications of COVID-19 and 118 have been diagnosed with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. The pediatric vaccine will further help reduce the spread of disease and prevent the rare but serious complications of COVID-19 in this age group,” said Dr. Hellerstedt.

Providers in cities across Texas started immunizing younger kids Wednesday morning. That includes Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, which already received its first shipment of 16,500 doses.

Jermaine Monroe, who is vice president of human resources at Texas Children’s and co-chairs the hospital system’s COVID-19 task force, says they expect to administer a minimum of 1,000 shots the first day.

“We also have what we call ‘add-ons.’ So, essentially, we have patients who have outpatient visits already scheduled today, and as they’re coming for their outpatient visits, we’re offering the vaccine. In addition, we have in-patients that are being discharged today, and as part of their discharge, we’re offering them the vaccine,” said Monroe.

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COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Dallas, Lubbock, and Amarillo are also immunizing younger kids.

A vaccine clinic near downtown Dallas opened its doors to children today. It had three thousand doses ready to go, according to County Judge Clay Jenkins, who led the public health response in the county.

Kevin Brown, who drove to the clinic from Garland, said he’s been anxiously waiting for months to find out when his 11 year old son, Julius Brown, would be able to get the vaccine.

“For us, it means we're going to get to travel for the holidays. We have a lot of family we haven't been able to see because a couple family members haven't been vaccinated,” said Brown.

Julius wasn’t too worried about getting the jab.

“It did kind of hurt a little, but after, I feel like it's just fine, like the pain went away quickly,” Julius said.

Julius said he’s looking forward to traveling a lot more.

“Like on Thanksgiving. We're gonna be headed to Oklahoma to see some family, but we couldn't for like, like last holidays, because we had to stay isolated.

The Pfizer vaccine for kids is available for free at Dallas schools and at county clinics. Several major pharmacies in the region will offer the shot starting on Monday.

Dozens of families lined up at the City of Lubbock Health Department’s vaccination hub to get the first COVID-19 dose in their little arms.

First in line was the 8-year-old daughter of city health department director Katherine Wells.

“Just to be able to have that extra protection and know that she’s not going to get sick, or if she does, it will be mild,” Wells said. “Also, protection for the older individuals in our family. I have a father-in-law who is diabetic. We’ve had to limit how much we see him. This will give us that freedom.”

Meanwhile, Casie Stoughton, Amarillo's public health director, said it’s a good day now that younger kids can be vaccinated.

“As a mom, I am super excited about this," she said, during a news conference Wednesday. "A good day for vaccinations and public health. And a good day for moving toward a more protected community."

Texas Tech Public Media’s Sarah Self-Walbrick and the Texas Newsroom’s Becky Fogel contributed to this report.

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