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Seattle Children's Hospital gears up for pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations amid concern over low supply

Seattle Children’s requested a large number of doses from the state but were only allotted 600 in the first round of shipments.

SEATTLE —
Seattle Children's Hospital is gearing up to start administering doses of the Pfizer vaccine to kids ages 5 to 11 starting Tuesday, but as with most places in the state right now the demand far exceeds supply.

Pfizer’s specially made COVID-19 vaccine for children is on the shelves and ready to go at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

“It’s a really joyous time and positive feelings here as we look forward to next Tuesday when we start our vaccination clinic,” said Dr. Ruth McDonald, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Seattle Children’s Hospital.

But it takes a lot of planning to make sure everything is done just right when dealing with different vaccine dosages for different age groups.

Doses are labeled with different colors, stored on different shelves, and administered at different stations than the adult size doses for people aged 12 and older.

 “We have very carefully trained our staff, have separate areas to make sure the vaccine is prepared appropriately with double checks with the nurses who are giving the vaccination to make sure they’re giving the right vaccine to the right age group,” McDonald explained.

There’s also the record-keeping that plays a role while vaccinating with different dosages.

“If a child is 11 years old and get their first vaccine and then they turn twelve years old at the time of their second vaccine, that child would get the adult sized dose. So, we need to keep very careful track of who gets what vaccine at what age,” she said.

RELATED: Here’s how you can get your 5- to 11-year-old vaccinated against COVID-19 in western Washington

While Seattle Children’s requested a lot of doses from the state, according to McDonald, they were only allotted 600 in the first round of shipments, and some of those need to be reserved for second doses.

“Right now, we’re planning to use quite a bit of the 600 that we have allocated. Not all of it, we want to make sure we have some in reserve, but we are planning to vaccinate as many children as possible,” she said.

“I think we were a little disappointed at how few doses we got in this first allotment,” said Dr. Doug Diekema, Seattle Children’s Emergency Care Physician.

Diekema is confident the supply will increase in the coming weeks, but that doesn’t stop the frustration he’s feeling after seeing so many kids sick with COVID-19 enter his emergency department.

“I think people are being misled by the fact that children, in general, don’t get as sick as adults do because that doesn’t mean that kids don’t get sick from this disease,” Diekema said.

More kids are being admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 than for the flu and one-third of the kids admitted for COVID end up in the ICU, Diekema said.

Seattle Children’s even had a child die this year from the virus.

“When you choose not to give that vaccine to your kids, you’re rolling the dice with a really bad disease. You might win that gamble and you might not. For me as a parent and for me as a provider, I’d rather not roll the dice with COVID-19,” said Diekema.

Diekema added that parents shouldn’t be fearful when giving the vaccine to their children.

“There’s a lot of experience with this vaccine now. So, a lot of people worry about, ‘is it safe?' It hasn’t been tested a lot in kids. But it’s been tested a lot in other people and when you think about the normal process for approving a drug, three-quarters of the adult population never gets that drug, but they have got this vaccine. So, we know a lot about this vaccine, and we know it’s a safe vaccine and there’s no reason to expect it to be any less safe in children,” he said.

The main clinic giving out pediatric vaccines is here at Seattle Children’s but once supply increases, they’ll be opening up more at places like the Odessa brown clinic, community clinics and a mobile unit.

According to Seattle Children’s the waitlist for the pediatric Pfizer vaccine is currently in the hundreds.

RELATED: Thousands of children on UW Medicine's COVID-19 vaccine waitlist