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Portland Public Schools prepares to launch vaccine pilot program for kids ages 5-11

The Pfizer vaccine has received approval from the FDA. It's expected a CDC committee will evaluate and make a recommendation this week.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A lot of parents are paying close attention to what’s happening with the COVID-19 vaccine approval process for kids ages 5-11.

The vaccine approval process for them is no different than the process for adult vaccines and booster shots.

At this point, the FDA has given the Pfizer vaccine a green light for 5- to 11-year-olds. Next, a CDC committee will have to evaluate it and make a recommendation. The CDC’s director signs off, then it goes to a group of western states. The last hurdle is for the governor to approve it. After that, the new guidance is implemented. A graphic from the Oregon Health Authority shows the process.

The process is expected to be complete this week and many parents are getting ready for their young children to get their vaccines.

“It will a big sense of relief when he gets the vaccine, so we can move on from this [pandemic] a little bit,” said Courtney Westling, a Portland mom who has a 6-year-old and 4-year-old son.

Credit: Courtney Westling
Courtney Westling with family

Westling said her oldest son, Evan, is already scheduled to get his first dose next week if the approval process goes smoothly.

“I still have a 4-year-old so he's not eligible yet. But I do feel like the vaccine wall around him will, you know, will keep him pretty healthy,” Westling said. She said once the vaccine is approved for 5-11-year-olds, her whole family will be vaccinated except her youngest son.

Westling also happens to be the director of government relations at Portland Public Schools. She’s in charge of rolling out a pilot program aimed at vaccinating kids 5-11 at eight schools.

“We have a pilot program we're working on with Kaiser Permanente and Medical Teams International, to offer eight sites in Portland specifically focused on schools that have very high barriers to accessing vaccines,” said Westling.

She said the schools are designated as Title I schools and have many students from historically under-served communities, some of which have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

RELATED: Portland Public Schools will hold vaccination clinics for children 5-11 once vaccine is approved for age bracket

“We are centering racial equity and social justice in all of our work, including how we allow for vaccine opportunities in schools,” she said.

Westling said the first clinic will be running as soon as next week with six clinics planned before Thanksgiving.

She said it's possible a couple of the schools in the pilot program will have clinics by the beginning of January.

After assessing the pilot vaccine clinics, the plan is to add more vaccination opportunities for kids 5-11, of course, with parent consent.

The eight schools that are a part of the pilot program are: Boise-Eliot/Humboldt Elementary, Cesar Chavez School, Faubion School, Lent Elementary, Rigler Elementary, Rose Parks Elementary, Scott Elementary and Sitton Elementary.

The district said the pilot program and partnership with Kaiser Permanente and Medical Teams International is part of a nationwide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

In a press release, a district spokesperson said they had been planning for the pilot project for months and wrote, “The Biden Administration recently announced its operational plans for vaccinating children ages 5 to 11; a key component of that plan is working with states and local partners to make vaccination sites easily accessible at local schools.”

Meantime the Oregon Health Authority has also been preparing. A spokesperson said in an e-mail that the state has ordered 119,700 doses for kids, which the CDC allocated to Oregon. Those doses are expected to go to 300 sites.

Oregon currently already has 11,100 doses ready to go. OHA said the federal government is also offering to give Oregon pharmacies 60,000 vaccine doses for kids.

RELATED: COVID vaccine for younger kids already being packed, shipped

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