Massachusetts

What Will the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout for Kids 5-11 Look Like in Mass.?

Once approved, most of these vaccines are expected to be administered either at school or the doctor’s office

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Some 515,000 students in Massachusetts fall into the age group.

Beacon Hill lawmakers will get a look Thursday morning at Massachusetts' plan to vaccinate children.

This comes as kids between 5 and 11 could become eligible for the vaccine as early as next month; roughly 515,000 Massachusetts children fall into this group.

The White House is preparing for the rollout as everyone awaits FDA and CDC approval.

Gov. Charlie Baker's administration has been working on the plans for immunizing kids with the lower-dose vaccine. Around 360,000 doses are expected in the first shipment, which are scheduled to arrive between Oct. 26 and Nov. 5.

Parents will still have to decide what they want to do.

"For my kids, age 7 and 11, I am waiting patiently, anxiously for the vaccine," said Quiana Agbai, a mom in Boston. "We’ve talked to our pediatrician, and I am on board."

"Unless it becomes at the point where it’s mandatory in order for them to actually attend school, then obviously that’s going to come down to the wire for me deciding to get them vaccinated," said Candida Shepard, another Boston mom.

Thursday morning’s hearing on vaccines for kids will take place virtually beginning at 10 a.m.

Boston pediatrician Robin Riseberg says she's constantly reassuring anxious parents that the vaccine is safe and effective.

"They're nervous about side effects," said Dr. Riseberg, founder of Boston Community Pediatrics. "They're nervous that we don't know what the vaccine does, and what I keep telling them is 'We do know what it does, it protects people from getting COVID.'"

"Sometimes they've heard something on TikTok, sometimes they're worried about a long-term side effect that just simply isn't going to happen," Riseberg added. "I'm able to find out what they're concerned about and talk with them."

At least 289 health care providers with about 700 locations across the state have so far indicated to the state that they plan to vaccinate kids, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said Thursday during a legislative oversight hearing.

Health care providers will get half of the state's allotment of pediatric doses and pharmacies that are part of the federal program will get the other half. Going forward, providers will order additional doses directly from the federal government, Sudders said. Though she said she would like to see 90 percent of the initial doses put to use within 30 days, the secretary also said the state's first goal is ensuring there is equal access to the vaccine for kids.

"So we've mapped out where we have locations and finalizing with our federal retail pharmacy partners where they will have locations," Sudders said. "So the first thing is just like, where do we have access and where do we have gaps?"

Sudders said more information on how parents will be able to sign their children up to get the shot will be coming next week.

"There will be a mix of, as there has been, appointment basis and walk-ins, and which primary care practices have signed up, and how local boards of health who've signed up how they want to manage it," she said.

In the last two weeks, 1,578, or 8.7 percent of the state's total confirmed new COVID-19 cases were identified in children between the ages of 5 and 9. Kids aged 10 through 14 -- some of whom are already eligible to get vaccinated -- accounted for 1,671 new cases or 9.2 percent of the total.

If kids ages 5 through 14 were counted in the state's daily report as a single 10-year age group, it would have the greatest number of new cases -- 3,249 -- over the last two weeks. Sudders said Thursday that about 73 or 74 percent of kids 12 or older in Massachusetts have been vaccinated.