OREGON, USA — Clinics, pediatricians, pharmacies and hospital systems in Oregon are beginning to vaccinate children under five against COVID-19 following last week's approval by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Oregon Health Authority said more than 51,000 pediatric doses have been shipped out to local health care providers and will arrive throughout the week. Some providers are already hosting vaccination events.
The Sellwood Clinic hosted a drive-thru pediatric vaccination event in its parking lot Tuesday. It reported about 575 appointments made in under three hours, with plans to host another clinic at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Legacy Health said it's ready to begin vaccinations Wednesday, starting with its most vulnerable pediatric patients first.
"Incredibly, incredibly excited about this," said Dr. Wendy Hasson, medical director for Legacy's Randall Children's Hospital.
Hasson sees medically vulnerable children daily in the ICU and is a mother to two children under five.
"Every parent wants the same thing, which is their child to live a full, healthy and safe life, and the COVID vaccine is a way for us to do that," she said.
Legacy said it is working on a plan to ramp up community-wide vaccinations for children under five soon.
Oregon Health and Science University has begun organizing weekend pediatric vaccine clinics by appointment.
"I'm just so thrilled for families with children in this age group," said Dr. Eliza Hayes Bakken with OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital. "The last few months have been pretty harrowing... unfortunately, now COVID is in the top ten leading causes of death of children in this age group."
Oregon doctors explained that although severe COVID infection is unusual for many children, boosting community immunity helps everyone.
"If the children themselves are higher risk or there's higher risk members of the family... potential risks and side effects of these vaccines are really outweighed by the potential benefits," Bakken said.
Vaccine trials of thousands of children showed typically mild side effects for a day or two. No children died in trials.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are approved for young children at lower doses than adult vaccinations.
Moderna's vaccine is two doses and provides immunity in about six weeks.
Pfizer's is spread out over three lower doses, providing immunity in about three months.
"Both vaccines provide the same protection against severe illness and hospitalization," Hasson said.
For the many young families like hers, the vaccines provide a new opportunity at a healthier life.
"Go to school, go on vacation, do sleepovers and be able to do that safely without the fear that your child may become one of the children who's sick enough that they have to be hospitalized," she said.
Many private providers in Oregon will also begin young pediatric vaccinations at their own pace as they receive doses and set up operations.
Oregon Health Authority offers an online vaccine finder tool, similar to one from the federal government.
Some providers in Washington have started vaccinations, as well. However, the Washington Department of Health posted on Twitter Tuesday that its initial COVID vaccine supply for children will be delayed 24-48 hours as inventory builds.