By Jared Strong, Iowa Capital Dispatch
COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11 are becoming widely available this week with county health departments receiving their first shipments of vaccine doses.
Many counties received their first allotment of doses on Monday, and all counties should have them by week’s end, said Sarah Ekstrand, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Public Health.
“If vaccines are not immediately available in a community, please remain patient as providers wait for their supply,” Ekstrand said. “The (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has assured states that the pediatric vaccine supply is adequate, and states are able to order more doses to meet demand.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the dissemination of Pfizer’s vaccine for children late last month. Iowa ordered about 99,000 doses, most of which has now been received, Ekstrand said. The state’s coronavirus website is expected to soon begin publishing vaccination rates for Iowa children ages 5 to 11.
Some counties, such as Lyon in far northwest Iowa, launched pediatric clinics on Tuesday.
“It’s always exciting when medicine is able to advance and add protection and safety for people,” said Melissa Stillson, public health administrator for Lyon County Health Services, which received 300 doses on Monday. “A lot of people are interested. They’re taking trips, and they want to get at least that first dose in before Thanksgiving. … Some want to wait and see. They want to know how their kids’ friends handle it, which is pretty normal.”
Counties are varied in their clinic scheduling. Carroll County received doses on Monday and then scheduled a clinic for Tuesday morning, whereas Delaware County has its first clinic scheduled for the middle of next week.
Nearly 56% of Iowans are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. Johnson County leads all other counties in the state with a 65% vaccination rate, and Davis County is last with 33.5%.
Cass County is set to hold its first clinic on Wednesday and had planned to inoculate up to 150 children. As of Tuesday morning about half of the available appointments were scheduled.
“We were very excited when we got them,” Beth Olsen, director of Cass County Public Health, said of receiving the first doses. “I told the FedEx lady: ‘I’m so happy to see you.’ ”
Olsen said her department is the only source of the pediatric vaccine in the county, and that she’ll use clinics or other group vaccinations to avoid potential waste from opening vials and not using all the doses they contain.
Hy-Vee pharmacies were among the first to offer the child vaccines after receiving them late last week from the CDC. Appointments are available through the grocers’ website.
“The demand has been high,” said Christina Gayman, a Hy-Vee spokesperson.
Medicap Pharmacy also began vaccinations this past weekend at certain locations in central Iowa. On Monday, it provided vaccines for 110 children of a group of eager Waukee parents.
“It’s gone pretty smoothly so far,” said Laura Webber, a marketing spokesperson for Medicap-Central Iowa. “There is a little hesitancy, similar to when vaccinations were first starting.”
She said the Medicap location in Carlisle has a clinic set for Saturday, and 50 children have appointments.