The local health care community is preparing to make the vaccine widely available for children
Booster shots and vaccines for children are the most recent steps being taken to keep COVID cases out of hospitals.
A panel of independent advisers to the Food and Drug Administration is recommending that the agency issue an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children ages 5 to 11 years old, NPR News reported. The federal agency is expected to issue a decision within the next several days.
If the FDA authorizes the vaccine for these younger children, as seems likely, another panel of experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would make its own recommendations and offer guidelines next week on its use among this age group.
A dose of Pfizer for young children contains one-third the amount of active ingredient compared to the adult dose.
Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaiʻi, said the goal is to make the vaccine as widely available as possible for children through schools, pharmacies and pediatricians.
"The pediatricians overwhelmingly are in support of the vaccine. The question is, how many pediatrician offices have the logistical capability to be able to administer the vaccine because you've got to be able to store the vaccine in a refrigerator, you've got to monitor it, you've got to enter the data into the national system, you've got to be able to monitor the child who has got the vaccine," Raethel said. "So not all pediatricians will offer the vaccine, even though they may be supportive of providing the vaccine."
The FDA committee's recommendation comes as more than 1.9 million cases have been reported nationwide among children ages 5-11, with approximately 8,300 children hospitalized to date, according to the CDC.
"The good news is that we've not had a lot of pediatric hospitalizations in the state from COVID. We've had some, but it hasn't impacted our state, at least from a children's perspective as many other states have," he said.
Raethel said about 74,000 people have already received their COVID-19 booster shots.
"Our hospitalization numbers have come down. We've been below 100 COVID patients a day, for each day, for about the last 12 days now, which is good," he said. "Overall, we're doing very, very well. But this virus is still out there. There are still individuals who are not vaccinated, but the mandates are helping as well. We believe that the people who had wanted to get vaccinated, or chosen to get vaccinated, most of those have already been vaccinated.
"The ones who are getting vaccinated right now, apart from those who are getting the booster shots, are those who are now being pushed or incentivized to get vaccinated because of their employers, because of mandates," Raethel added.