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The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for kids is here. What does it mean for North Texas?

A young girl gets a COVID-19 vaccine in her right arm. She's wearing a white shirt and her back is turned. The nurse is in blue scrubs, a black watch visible on her wrist, administering the vaccine.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA
Dallas County received 3,000 initial doses of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine for children between 5 and 11. The county health department hosted an event for the first pediatric vaccinations on November 3, 2021.

The Texas Department of State Health Services is set to receive 1.3 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine for children between 5 and 11. Chief State Epidemiologist Jennifer Shuford explains what this means for families across Texas.

Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have recommended the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine for children between 5 and 11 years old. This comes after months of a virus surge across Texas, which infected more than 211,000 students since August and strained pediatric hospital capacity.

Jennifer Shuford, Chief State Epidemiologist for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said the vaccine is coming at a great time.

“We have seen COVID-19 rip through the elementary school, middle, and high school populations since the Delta surge occurred,” Shuford said. “[The vaccine] will help keep kids who are in schools from transmitting potential infections to other people in their family, as well as keep schools open.”

Rolling out the Pfizer vaccine in Texas

Shuford said the state is set to receive 1.3 million doses of the vaccine to distribute to providers across the state. She said the department is working not only to get the vaccine to healthcare providers, but also to pharmacies and smaller pediatric clinics.

“Right now, to order this vaccine, you have to order at least 300 doses, but that's still too much for some pediatric providers,” Shuford said.

The Department of State Health Services is planning on accepting shipments from the CDC to break into smaller amounts to distribute. More than 900 providers are receiving an initial shipment from the state. The department said they’re also focusing their vaccination efforts on smaller pop-up events, rather than mass vaccination sites, like other counties across North Texas.

In addition, the pediatric vaccine is a different concentration than the adult vaccine—about ⅓ the dose—so Shuford said she anticipates regular shipments of vaccine from the CDC because providers can’t just use the vaccine they have on hand.

Shuford said the department is doing outreach to vaccine-hesitant parents and families. She sees pediatricians and family doctors as key players to help answer questions about the vaccine moving forward.

“As a mom, I know I have a lot of questions and concerns about medications and vaccines that go into my child, as well,” Shuford said. “So it's important to talk to your health care provider about all of those questions, so that they can give you the most sound advice for that child.”

Three sisters hold hands, while one small girl in a navy shirt and navy bow in her hair gets vaccinated by a nurse wearing a mask and black gloves, behind a Dallas County Health and Human Services banner.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA
Emerson Pinkus, 6, holds her older sister’s hand, Aiden, 8, and her twin sister Macy, 6, while she receives her COVID-19 vaccine in Dallas on November 3, 2021.

Concerns about COVID-19 in Texas going into 2022

While COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Texas have been trending downward in the past month, Shuford said there’s still work to be done.

“We are not back to the place that we were before the surge,” Shuford said. “We are still at a precarious place considering that flu season is about to hit us, and if it’s a severe flu season, that again could stress out our hospitals, especially if we never fully recover from this last COVID wave.”

Shuford is also concerned about unvaccinated people heading into the holiday season, where traditionally there’s been a spike in COVID-19 cases, along with other respiratory viruses. She and others at the state health department are also monitoring a virus variant that’s related to delta in the United Kingdom.

“We'll be watching that closely, as well as any other variants that emerge in Texas, or elsewhere, so that we can be prepared for anything that the future might bring us,” Shuford said.

How to access COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine appointments in North Texas

Children 5 and up are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines across the country. The federal vaccine location database is one way to find vaccine appointments, including pharmacies participating in the federal retail pharmacy partnership, plus calling 1-800-232-0233.

Tarrant County

More than 204,000 kids in Tarrant County are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, according to Public Health Director Vinny Taneja. Tarrant County has a vaccine finder database to locate the nearest vaccine appointment, which include local pharmacies and health providers.

Dallas County

Dallas County Health and Human Services received an initial shipment of 3,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, according to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. The county plans to partner with Dallas ISD to offer vaccines in schools, in addition to appointment-only clinics across the city.

Denton County

According to a spokesperson, the Denton County Public Health Department received 8,100 initial doses of the Pfizer pediatric vaccine for clinics. The department is starting clinics this week, and people can register their children for vaccinations, along with adult vaccinations and booster shots, through the county’s website, or by calling 940-349-2585.

Got a tip? Email Elena Rivera at erivera@kera.org. You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

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Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.