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Santa Cruz County preparing to vaccinate kids aged 5-11 pending FDA approval

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KION) Children aged 5 to 11 could get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as next month if it gets authorization from the FDA, and Santa Cruz County is already preparing for the rollout.

On Wednesday, the White House told governors across the nation to begin preparing to vaccinate children as young as 5, pending approval of Pfizer's vaccine for the younger age group.

Santa Cruz County says instead of mass vaccination sites, they are working to roll out the vaccines at health clinics, pediatrician and primary care offices and school sites. They say this will enable parents to discuss their concerns one-on-one with providers.

"Mass vaccination clinics aren't likely the way to go with kiddos just to ensure that they feel comfortable and safe," said Courtney Kilgore, Senior Health Educator for the County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency, Public Health Division. "Just to be able to talk through their health questions with their health care providers to ensure that they feel comfortable. And making sure that parents feel comfortable."

If the Pfizer vaccine receives emergency use authorization for ages 5-11, 4,000 kids will become eligible to receive their first dose in San Benito County. Another 40,000 will be eligible in Monterey County, and 15,000 in Santa Cruz County.

Santa Cruz County says their goal is to vaccinate 40% of those kids by the end of the year.

"In a regular flu season, about 40% of those kids are automatically going to have parents or other efforts taking them to get vaccines. If we can even hit 40% by the end of this year, we are doing great, and that's if we did nothing different than in past years," said Anna Sutton, Director of Nursing for the County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency, Public Health Division.

Officials with the County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency say the pediatric vaccine will come in smaller doses, and side-effects will be minimal.

"They are very similar to what the adults are seeing and probably actually even less severe," said Sutton. "So it's really similar to the flu. A lot of kids will just feel a lot more tired. They might have some soreness at the injection site. They might feel fatigue."

Governor Gavin Newsom has already announced he will be requiring the COVID-19 vaccine in all California schools once it receives full approval.

"I'm for it, first of all because my daughter comes to school, and secondly my wife is also a teacher, so it's something very real for me because of that possible exposure," said Danny Andrade, a Salinas parent.

The FDA and CDC will be meeting later this month and in early November to discuss emergency use authorization for the 5-11 age group. Santa Cruz County says they will be waiting for final approval from the Western State Scientific Workgroup review and the California Department of Public Health before moving forward.

U.S. health officials are already inviting state officials to pre-order doses starting next week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also sent out a 7-page planning guide this week that some say provided important clarifications on how to set up the vaccine programs for younger kids.

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Lisa Principi

Lisa Principi is a reporter at KION News Channel 5/46.

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