Local leaders talk strategy for COVID-19 vaccine rollout once it’s authorized for young children

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Austin Public Health announced Tuesday the area is moving down to Stage 3 COVID-19 risk-based guidelines, questions remain about getting the youngest in the population vaccinated.

In Tuesday’s joint APH briefing with Travis County commissioners and Austin City Council members, local leaders expressed a desire to make the Pfizer vaccine — once it gets emergency use authorization for children ages 5-11 — more accessible for families.

Travis County Judge Andy Brown said at his own children’s pediatrician’s office, the Pfizer vaccine isn’t available. He worries it’s because that particular vaccine must go through a mixing process.

“As we all know the joys of Pfizer are, compared to Moderna, it’s really hard to prepare,” Brown told his colleagues, asking if they’d be willing to further discuss a program to prepare vaccines and distribute them to pediatrician’s offices.

Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion added he’d like to see the county partner with local school districts to vaccinate the majority of kids through their schools.

Several Austin City Council members suggested schools offer vaccines during school hours and allow parents to sign permission slips to get the shot, like they would for flu shots. The idea is to make it easier for working families to arrange for their kids to be vaccinated.

“Some of the feedback I’m hearing from my community is the need for some kind of waiver in school settings so that the kids can get vaccinated without the parent physically present,” council member Vanessa Fuentes explained. “Having a process in place where parents can sign a waiver to allow their child to get vaccinated while in school is something that’s been talked about.”

Dr. Louis Appel, president-elect of the Texas Pediatrics Society, tells KXAN the process of enrolling to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine differs from the process to be enrolled in the state’s current child immunization program, which may complicate the process for some doctors’ offices.

However, he says a good number of pediatrician’s offices already offer the Pfizer vaccine to older children ages 12-17. He expects the same if and when the vaccine becomes available to younger children.

“I think that there will probably be a mix. There will be some physician offices that are offering it and some that aren’t,” Appel said, adding, “even if some some physician offices are not offering it, there will be other places where it will be available in the community.”

In the meantime, he stresses families with children continue to be careful and take preventive measures.

“Even at Stage 3, it’s so important for everyone to be careful and to take appropriate precautions. And I think in particular, when it comes to school, and the younger age groups where children have not been able to be vaccinated yet, there’s really no change.”

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