Georgia has pre-ordered 145,000 doses of children's COVID-19 vaccine

Georgia health officials say the state has pre-ordered about 145,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine, ahead of the FDA's ruling on whether to authorize the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

Dr. Alexander Millman, Chief Medical Officer of the Georgia Department of Public Health, says the pre-orders could begin shipping to vaccine providers once the FDA announces its decision.

Tuesday a CDC vaccine advisory panel will meet to make recommendations on how the vaccine should be distributed and whether certain groups of children should be prioritized.

"We hope those providers would be able to have those doses in hand so that they would be able to start vaccinating those children in that age group almost as soon as possible after the CDC Director has approved the use of that product," Dr. Millman says.

If the vaccine is authorized,  he says, about 987,000 Georgia children between the ages of 5 through 11 would become eligible for the two-dose vaccine.

As of Thursday, Dr. Millman says, the GA DPH had enrolled about 1,760 providers to give out the pediatric vaccine.

"We have medical practices, pediatric practices, family medicine practices that have been enrolled," he says. "There are also our public health clinics that are, that are providing vaccine."

Children would also be able to get the vaccine at pharmacies, community health centers, schools, and children's hospitals across the state.  

Dr. Millman predicts most children will be immunized either by their pediatrician or family doctor.

"As parents know, children do not always like to get vaccinations," he says.  "Being able to be in a safe environment, being able to be in an environment that younger children are comfortable with, their medical home, where they know the practitioners, can be something that can help deal with the anxiety that children can face when they are coming in to get vaccinations."

National surveys show parents are divided on vaccinating younger children, with about a third eager to get their kids the shots as soon as they are authorized and two-thirds planning to wait or not get their school-age children vaccinated.

The DPH says 43,178 Georgia children between the ages of 5 and 10 have contracted the coronavirus so far in the pandemic.

Of those children, 301 have been hospitalized and 5 have died from complications of the virus.

Still, with Georgia's COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations steadily dropping, some parents may no longer believe the shots are needed.

Dr. Millman disagrees, warning the state could be hit by another surge in virus this winter.

"Unfortunately, COVID is still around right now," he says.  "And, now is an opportunity, when there is less disease, to be able to vaccinate.  So that, if there is another wave in the future, we can try to prevent as many infections as possible."

Millman is urging parents who have questions about the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine to talk with their child's doctor.