West Michigan hospitals prepare to vaccinate kids 5-11

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel will meet Tuesday to review guidelines for how the COVID-19 vaccine should be administered to children ages 5 to 11.

The shots could be just days away from being given in West Michigan if the panel and CDC director sign off.

“I think the demand will be pretty brisk initially and then drop off pretty quick, unfortunately,” Dr. Andrew Jameson, the medical director of infection prevention with Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, said Monday.

He said the Grand Rapids-based health system has already ordered the vaccine and will be receiving smaller needles required for the age group.

“The dose is different. It’s packaged different. It has some different labeling, so we’re getting ready for those changes, too,” he said.

Doctors with Mercy Health are already accepting some appointments next week through special clinics at pediatrician’s offices. In addition to primary care offices, some pharmacies may offer the vaccine, but fewer are expected to participate than do for adults since many do not provide any shots for children. Clinics are also being planned in some local schools.

Dr. Ronald Grifka, a pediatric cardiologist and chief medical officer with University of Michigan Health-West (formerly Metro Health) in Wyoming, said his system is also working on preparations to meet the need. 

“Every outpatient center will have the kids dose, kids needles, so we can get them immunized as quickly as possible at their primary care provider’s office,” Grifka said. “The sooner we get the kids vaccinated, they can go to school and stay in school and that’s better for everyone. And they’re also less likely to bring it home and spread it to their parents and grandparents.”

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health is working on planning clinics specifically for children and said supply of the vaccine will not be a problem.

“As soon as the emergency use authorization comes through, then we will open up registration and scheduling for those families,” spokesperson Alison Clark said.

The Ottawa County mask order for children in schools is also tied to the vaccine, so the department is recommending parents not wait on getting the shots since the order will expire 60 days after the doses become available.

“The order is going to lift either way, but in order for kids to have the highest level of protection, we’re recommending families come in that first 25 days for the first dose of the vaccine,” Clark said.

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