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West Michigan healthcare providers ready to begin vaccinating kids, now awaiting final approval

An FDA panel voted 17-0 Tuesday in favor of recommending Pfizer's vaccine for emergency use authorization in children 5-11.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On the eve of a significant step forward in the effort to vaccinate US children over five against coronavirus, recall the massive distribution problems that plagued the first major vaccine rollout and kept many on the hook waiting months for that shot in the arm.

Local health departments, hospitals and family doctors in West Michigan indicated they are ready for this next wave of COVID-19 vaccinations. 

While West Michigan’s medical infrastructure seems ready to spring into action as soon as a final decision came down, mom and dad, on the other hand, were less so.

Anxious to get the ball rolling, Doctor An Nguyen, who practices at Grand Rapids Family and Pediatric Medicine, says all he needs is the green light from the FDA. 

The jab will be a low-dose version of the adult original.

Dr. Nguyen receives his supply from the Kent County Health Department.

While the vaccine will still come in larger vials that have to be broken down into individual patient-sized lots, he told 13 ON YOUR SIDE he was confident distribution would go more smoothly than in previous rollouts, marred by supply chain bottlenecks and head-scratching from providers.

“It will be immediate, as soon as we can get the vaccine,” Nguyen said.

13 On Your Side received a number of statements from various agencies throughout west Michigan regarding the authorization and ongoing preparations.

MDHHS: “MDHHS is excited about potential authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. Michigan has been allocated 287,700 doses initially of the pediatric Pfizer vaccine for the first roll out that providers are pre-booking this week for arrival once the vaccine is authorized for emergency use by ACIP. We know COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and the way out of this pandemic. With more than 4,000 vaccine providers across the state, there are ample providers and vaccines available. Approximately 825,000 Michigan children will be eligible for the vaccine and we have around 85% of our Vaccine for Children providers currently enrolled in the COVID-19 program. MDHHS and providers across the state have worked to make vaccines as accessible as possible to all Michiganders by bringing them into communities through mobile vaccine units; setting up clinics at community testing sites at churches and local community centers; providing vaccines at local events; and at frequently visited locations such as Dollar General stores and Welcome Centers.”

Ottawa County Department of Public Health: “Ottawa County Department of Public Health is expecting the FDA to approve emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 5 – 11 soon. Ottawa County Department of Public Health is coordinating with our community partners to ensure that accessible, equitable and kid-friendly clinics are available around the County for all families who are interested in obtaining a vaccine for their children. We would encourage all parents to speak with their doctor or other trusted medical provider about the risks of COVID-19 infection, and the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness in reducing hospitalization and serious illness, in children.”

Spectrum Health: "Spectrum Health and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital are excited about the pending emergency use authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine with hopes that it will soon be available to children ages 5-11 years old. Our plan is to offer the Pfizer vaccine at a variety of pediatric, internal medicine & pediatric and family practice offices across West Michigan in addition to Spectrum Health urgent care locations, walk-in clinics and more. A variety of other local pediatric and primary care offices as well as retail pharmacies and local health departments will also soon have the vaccine available for patients, pending final approvals. We recommend the vaccine for everyone as the best defense against COVID-19 along with practicing safe behaviors, including masking, frequent hand washing and social distancing."

Dr. Andrew Jameson, Division Chief Infection Disease and Regional Medical Director of Infection Control for Mercy Health: “We are prepared to administer pediatric doses as soon as the authorization comes through. We ordered the maximum amount from the state the moment the window opened.”

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