Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are available for younger children in Pa.

Midstate health systems and pharmacies are set to begin vaccinating children with the lower-dose Pfizer shot as early as this weekend.

  • Brett Sholtis

(Harrisburg) — Children ages 5 to 11 are now eligible for a lower-dose version of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination — and midstate doctors are taking appointments.

York County-based WellSpan Health will begin booking patients Nov. 5 and vaccinating children Nov. 8.

“While children have a lower risk of COVID-19 than adults, some do get ill, while those who don’t get ill can still spread the virus to others,” said WellSpan Health Chief Medical Officer Mark Goedecker. “We believe that expanding our vaccination efforts to this age group will go a long way in ending this pandemic.”

Children do not need to be WellSpan patients. Parents can call 855-851-3641 or book an appointment online. The appointments will take place at pediatric practices and some WellSpan family medicine practices.

Penn State Health already started taking appointments and is booked about one week out, said Senior Vice President Jeanette Gibbs. The Hershey-based health system will begin providing vaccines Saturday.

With older children already eligible for vaccines, Penn State Health Children’s Hospital Dr. Patrick Gavigan said this new step will help to end the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted schools over the past two years.

He said parents should not expect school masking rules to be lifted just yet. “But, I think as we’re able to get more kids vaccinated, and able to get more broad protection, that we could certainly see that.”

Parents can schedule an appointment with Penn State Health by calling 844-774-8883 or can schedule online.

Several area school districts have also contacted Penn State Health to set up on-site vaccine clinics, Gibbs said. She declined to say which ones. She added it will provide one more access point, while noting parents will have to be present.

Clinics at schools is just one part of a broad approach to providing access to vaccines, said Pennsylvania Department of Health Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson.

“Especially for kids who may not have the transportation to get to these clinics, a school can be a very convenient place to receive your vaccine,” Johnson said.

Johnson noted Pennsylvania is not seeing the supply issues it had in the spring when vaccines first became widely available.

There are about 890,000 children across the state in the 5-11 age group – excluding Philadelphia, which has its own vaccine program, Johnson said. Approximately, 414,000 doses of the new Pfizer pediatric vaccine for 5-11-year-olds will be available by Nov. 8. The vaccination requires two doses spread out over several weeks.

Approved vaccine providers across the state and some large retail pharmacies are receiving the initial distribution of the new vaccine between Nov. 1 through Nov. 8. Some have already received shipments.

COVID-19 cases have not declined as much as some people think. Average daily cases are down 52% compared to the beginning of October. That’s still about 3,200 new cases each day.

Across the U.S., more than 8,300 kids aged 5 to 11 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 because of serious illness, according to a recent NPR report.

In addition, more than 5,200 children and teens have developed MIS-C, or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a condition linked to COVID-19 that often leads to ICU admission. The median age of kids getting MIS-C is 9 years old.

As a note of disclosure, Transforming Health receives financial support from WellSpan Health.

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