Austin Public Health prepares for possible expansion of COVID-19 vaccine to younger kids

Photo of a child receiving a shot
Austin health authorities are preparing for COVID-19 vaccines to potentially become available for children ages 5-11. (Courtesy Fotolia)

Austin health authorities are preparing for COVID-19 vaccines to potentially become available for children ages 5-11. (Courtesy Fotolia)

Ahead of the federal Food and Drug Administration's scheduled meeting Oct. 26 to consider authorizing Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for 5-to 11-year-olds, Austin Public Health is anticipating increased demand for the Pfizer shot.

APH interim Director Adrienne Sturrup told local officials Oct. 12 that an effort is underway to prepare for the added 114,519 Travis County residents that will become eligible for the vaccine if the FDA authorizes it for use in 5- to 11-year-olds later this month.

"We're looking at making sure we have an adequate supply in anticipation of the increased demand for Pfizer," Sturrup said at a joint session of Austin City Council and the Travis County Commissioners Court. "Because [Pfizer will be] the only option for kiddos, we want to make sure we have enough vaccine on hand."

Since late 2020, when COVID-19 vaccines became available, Sturrup said APH has predominantly provided residents with Moderna's vaccine, which is not slated to be authorized for children yet. Pfizer's vaccine—now officially called Comirnaty since securing full FDA approval in August—requires deep-freezing technology to maintain its shelf life, making it difficult for some providers to manage compared to Moderna's and Johnson & Johnson's shots.

Travis County Judge Andy Brown said he had called his young children's pediatrician to see if they could be put on a waitlist for the vaccine and discovered the doctor's office was not a vaccine provider, even for 12- to 17-year-olds, who are already authorized to receive Pfizer's vaccine.

"[It's] not something to underestimated, how difficult it is, especially, I would imagine, for these really small pediatricians' offices," Brown said. "If it really is the case that a lot of pediatricians' offices aren't offering it, then I feel like we really need to come up with another plan or help them offer it in some way."

Sturrup said APH, along with the Travis County Mobile Vaccine Collaborative, which has provided vaccines in various underserved areas of the county over the past few months, would connect with other local providers, including pediatrics offices and pharmacies, to support their own vaccination strategies.

"I'd be curious to see what the response will be from retail pharmacy because they are the largest provider to date of vaccine in our community," she said.
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.


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