DPHSS begins prepping vaccination for kids ages 5-11

YOUNGER KIDS: The Department of Public Health and Social Services is making preparations to vaccinate kids ages 5-11 as the nation awaits federal approval of the Pfizer shot for the younger age group. The vaccine is authorized for emergency use for teens 12 and older. In this April 12 photo, high school senior Michael Sampang receives a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Tiyan High School vaccination clinic. Post file photo.

The Department of Public Health and Social Services is making preparations to administer COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5-11 in the next few weeks in anticipation of it’s approval.

“The Food and Drug Administration evaluation committee, they meet Oct. 26,” said Dr. Robert Leon Guerrero, Department of Public Health and Social Services interim chief medical officer.

The FDA’s Advisory Committee will be meeting on at 8:30 a.m. (ET) on Oct. 26 to discuss a request to amend Pfizer-BioNTech’s Emergency Use Authorization for administration of their COVID-19 mRNA vaccine to children 5 through 11 years of age, according to the agency’s website.

The committee will make their recommendation to the FDA. If EUA is granted, then Guam will need to wait on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to make final recommendations.

The CDC advisory committee is scheduled to meet on Nov. 2 and 3. Dr. Leon Guerrero said if both entities give the green light, DPHSS could be vaccinating children in about four weeks.

“It’s always better to be prepared ahead of time,” he said.

MIS-C 

The preparation comes as doctors confirmed that a second child is at the Guam Memorial Hospital with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C, a rare syndrome linked to COVID-19. The two boys, ages 10 and 11, both were recovering. 

The first child, who was admitted to GMH on Oct. 4 and required blood pressure medication as well as oxygen, was expected to be discharged soon, Leon Guerrero said on Friday. The second child didn't have symptoms as severe as the first. 

MIS-C develops two to four weeks after a child catches COVID-19. Parts of the body becomes inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs, according to local pediatrician Dr. Michael Um. 

Doctors encourage residents and fellow physicians to be on the lookout for MIS-C if children catch COVID-19, but also say parents shouldn't panic. Data gathered from across the nation shows that for every one million cases of pediatric COVID-19, about 320 children will develop MIS-C, Dr. Um stated. 

On Friday, Dr. Leon Guerrero said GMH, Naval Hospital Guam, and Guam Regional Medical City had run out of intravenous immune globulin, or IVIG, which is used to treat MIS-C. 

Mai Habib, GMH spokesperson, on Saturday morning said they anticipated a shipment that day. It wasn't confirmed, as of press time, whether the shipment arrived. 

Lessons learned 

Leon Guerrero, who was named DPHSS’ interim CMO in September, said he’d like to avoid the situation that happened when Pfizer was first approved. Guam started administering it in late December 2020 going into early January of this year for older manamko’, medical workers and first responders.

Hundreds of manamko’ lined up for hours with some in their cars as early as the night before outside the temporary clinics set up at Okkodo High School. A few reported such long waits they left the lines because they were hungry, thirsty or needed the restroom.

He said DPHSS will be reaching out to schools for help in determining how many parents will likely get their children vaccinated. 

That’s going to be key in preparing for the first phase of the rollout.

“I don’t know how many vaccines we’re going to get out in the first phase,” Dr. Leon Guerrero said, noting that vaccine for the younger children could be about 60% of the dosage administered to people 12 and up.

The FDA granted Pfizer full approval for use in adults this past August. Pfizer’s vaccine is currently administered to children ages 12 and up under emergency use authorization.

Manufacturers last month said the Pfizer vaccine was safe for younger children and data based on a trial that included more than 2,000 children showed a “robust” antibody response.

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