AU Health could take a lead in next phase of kids’ COVID shots

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 7:07 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – It’s the next step in the vaccine rollout: Children ages 5 to 11 will soon be able to get a COVID shot at their pediatrician’s office, pharmacy and potentially their school.

That’s according to new plans just released Wednesday by the White House.

Groups from the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet over the next two weeks to weigh in on giving low-dose shots to the 28 million children in that age group.

Within hours of the expected approval, the White House says millions of doses will be shipped to more than 25,000 pediatric and primary-care offices across the country. The Biden administration says it also plans to make vaccination available at schools and other community-based sites like children’s hospitals.

Officials with Augusta University Health say they just got word of these plans Tuesday, so there are still a lot of details to iron out. But AU Health could potentially be a place parents will be able to bring their kids to get vaccinated.

We spoke to one mom in Columbia County who has a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old. She says for her this news is a long time coming.

It’s news many parents have waited to hear since the start of the pandemic.

“Mmm, April of 2020,” said Megan Cunningham, a Columbia County parent.

Kids ages 5 to 11 will soon be eligible for the COVID vaccine. And Cunningham will be one of the first ones in line to vaccinate her two kids.

“As soon as I can get them in, we’ll be there,” she said.

Now the question is when and where can kids get vaccinated.

“Pediatricians are going to play a massive role in getting these vaccines to kids 5 to 11 years old,” she said.

How this works is providers like AU will tell the state Department of Public Health whether they want to give vaccines to kids. If yes, providers will submit how much they need on a weekly basis to DPH. The state then will hand out vaccine based on how many doses the federal government gives it. Right now, AU says it hasn’t signed up with DPH but expects to play a lead role to roll out child vaccinations.

“We’ve certainly taken a leadership role in the COVID-19 pandemic, and I can imagine that we will do the exact same thing with pediatric vaccinations,” said Dr. Joshua Wyche, vaccine coordinator at AU Health.

Doctors are hoping the response to form this age group will help reduce hospitalization even more in our area.

“Every child that ultimately is vaccinated has a better chance of stopping the spread of the virus,” he said.

Which will in turn stop mutations of the virus.

“Vaccination is our best tool to prevent serious illness in our community,” he said.

And AU Health did give us vaccination numbers Wednesday for 15- to 19-year-olds in our area.

The vaccine response for teens 15 to 19 in Georgia is 48.1 percent. If you break that down to Richmond and Columbia counties, 33.8 percent of that age group is vaccinated in Richmond County. In Columbia County, 47.8 percent are fully vaccinated. AU Health says it expects those numbers to be similar to what we see with this next age group.

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