University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics announced on Tuesday during a press conference that it will be opening slots for COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 6 months through 5 years after the CDC approved the recommendation to begin vaccinating that age group on June 18.
UI Hospitals and Clinics opened slots early Wednesday morning and have already filled all 200 slots for today. The health system plans to have more slots available in the coming days.
UI Hospitals and Clinics plans to implement evening clinics starting Monday, assuming they have the resources. At this time UI Hospitals and Clinics does not know when they will be able to open up more locations to give the vaccine.
Mike Brownlee, chief pharmacy officer for UI Hospitals and Clinics, said he expects it to take time for vaccines to become widely available around the state, and it might take some time for them to offer vaccines at other UI locations. This is because of the difference in the vaccine amounts and procedures from other age ranges to this age group.
“These are new dosage forms that we have to train our staff on and we have to build in our systems for patients to safely receive this vaccine,” Brownlee said.
The Pfizer vaccine is given in 5 microgram increments for this age range and the Moderna is given in 25 microgram increments. Where ages 5 to 11 are given 10 micrograms doses in a two shot series of the Pfizer vaccine. Moderna is not currently approved for ages 5 to 11.
“There’s a process behind the scenes that has to be implemented and that’s why we opened some spots today so we can become familiar with that process,” Brownlee said. “As we become more familiar with this process we are going to expand to other locations.”
Brownlee said that the trials showed the vaccine to be safe and effective
“We continue to see the data come out of the trials for the kids in these age ranges where the safety has been shown, where the number of adverse drug events is minimal, and is consistent with other age groups,” he said. “… the trials for this age group were done during the Omicron wave and we are seeing that the efficacy is similar to what we are seeing in adults.”
The UI Hospitals and Clinics pediatricians and family medicine providers are officially recommending that all eligible age groups receive the full primary series of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The two vaccines available to young children in this age group are Pfizer, a three shot series spaced three to eight weeks apart and Moderna, a two shot series, eight weeks apart.
Brownlee said the health system and parents alike are excited for the approval, and are looking forward to filling the gap in eligible age ranges for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The pandemic has had an impact on families. Some children in these age ranges were born during the pandemic and they haven’t seen their grandparents. They haven’t been able to socialize like a normal 2-year-old would,” Brownlee said. “There have been day care closures and parents have had to adjust their schedules or get a different job to create a safe environment for their kids, who were not eligible for the vaccine.”
UI Hospitals and Clinics is offering both vaccines at this time and does not expect there to be a shortage of the vaccine in the health system.
They are seeing a spike in interest for the vaccine in this age range because of its impact on families.
“[Because of] the inability to see family members and the day care issues that have come up, we have seen a spike in interest slightly higher than the 5 to 11-year-old [age groups],” Brownlee said.
Brownlee also said parents should talk to their family medicine provider or pediatrician if they have questions about the vaccine for their child.
Vaccine appointments for children can be scheduled at the UI Hospitals and Clinics website.