116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Young Iowans began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday after federal officials approved shots for children ages 5 to 11, clearing the way for a new phase of vaccine distribution in Iowa.
Pediatricians, pharmacies and other vaccine providers across the state have begun administering shots to this age group with doses from advanced allocations that arrived, in some cases, just hours before the vaccine received emergency use authorization.
That included a handful of providers in the Corridor, who were distributing pediatric doses during vaccine clinics Wednesday evening.
More than 26,000 of the state’s initial 99,000 allocated pediatric doses were delivered in the state Wednesday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. The remaining doses are expected to arrive in the coming days.
To local health officials, the federal approval this week — and the quick launch of this new phase of the vaccine distribution effort — marked a huge step in the continued effort to curb community transmission of the coronavirus.
“It’s a pretty monumental day to curb household, school and day care transmission. And I’m sure a huge relief to so many families,” said Sam Jarvis, community health manager at Johnson County Public Health.
The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is hosting a Facebook Live at 2:15 p.m. Thursday to answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccines in children aged 5 to 11 years. To attend, visit the Facebook page here.
On Tuesday evening, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on the Pfizer vaccine for children between 5 and 11 years old, clearing the way for the shots to start going into the arms of an estimated 28 million young Americans.
The approved COVID-19 dose for children is about one-third of the dose administered to adults and teenagers.
In Iowa, about 284,000 children in that age group are now eligible to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. That includes an estimated 20,294 children in Linn County and about 11,700 in Johnson County.
Local public health officials warn COVID-19 vaccine appointments for this age group may be limited until later this week or early next week as providers review state guidance for administering these shots.
“At the moment, the limiting factor has been whether the vaccine was delivered yesterday and providers were able to prep for a start date today,” Jarvis said.
However, based on the current supply, parents eager to immunize their children should expect to be able to do so in the near future.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Heather Meador, clinical services supervisor for Linn County Public Health.
“Conversations happening last year at this time were much different. We’re in a much better place now.”
Vaccine clinics at local schools
The COVID-19 vaccine will be available to children ages 5 to 11 at most vaccine providers, including health care clinics and retail pharmacies, Meador said.
Vaccine clinics will be available to students in school districts in Linn and Johnson counties.
On Wednesday, the Iowa City Community School District announced a partnership with the Visiting Nurses Association to host walk-in COVID-19 vaccine clinics for students at 10 of its elementary schools in the coming weeks. Shots will only be provided to students with a parent or guardian present.
The first clinics are scheduled for 3:15 to 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8. The clinics will be held at Grant Elementary, 1000 Centro Way in North Liberty, and Weber Elementary, 3850 Rohret Rd. in Iowa City.
The Iowa City school district also is working with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on arranging vaccine clinics with interpreters and transportation to night clinics, Iowa City Superintendent Matt Degner said at a school board meeting last week.
"We feel like our families should have some choice and accessibility," he said.
In addition, the Cedar Rapids Community School District is working with Linn County Public Health to host clinics as part of an effort to increase access for their families, particularly those who might face barriers in taking their child to a vaccine appointment. Meador said details on those events should be coming in the next couple of weeks.
More appointments available soon, officials say
COVID-19 vaccine appointments are filling rapidly for now.
“As time goes on this week and next, we anticipate more appointments becoming available and ask that parents and guardians not get discouraged while in the process of scheduling,” Jarvis said. “We’ll continue to address gaps or areas of need as best as possible in our community and are checking in with our partners frequently.”
Parents who want to schedule an appointment should call their child’s pediatrician, Meador said. Appointments also are available at local public health departments.
The pediatrics clinic at Mercy Medical Center already is seeing high demand for vaccine appointments, which are scheduled to begin this weekend, said Dr. Padget Skogman, a pediatrician.
Side effects similar to those in adults
Data from federal health officials and Pfizer shows a similar side effect profile as seen in adults, such as a sore arm, fatigue and headache. Skogman said there’s nothing in the data to suggest that the vaccines are not safe for children in this age group.
Skogman has been telling patients that she has scheduled a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for her 5-year-old daughter. She said that it’s important her child is protected from any risk from a COVID-19 infection, but that she also helps protect those around her who might be at-risk.
“My 5-year-old is healthy, so even if she got COVID-19, she likely would not be severely sick. But she goes to school with individuals who are immunocompromised and who have severe disabilities, and we want to make sure those kids are protected,” Skogman said.
Skogman encouraged anyone with questions to contact their health care provider. They should not turn to social media for answers, as those sites are filled with misinformation about COVID-19 vaccinations for children.
“I would caution parents to fact-check anything they hear or see on social media,” Skogman said.
Gazette reporter Grace King contributed to this report.
Comments: (319) 398-8469; email@example.com