New chief medical exec says vaccinating 5 to 11 year-olds key to limiting school outbreaks

The state of Michigan is ready to vaccinate some of its youngest residents against COVID-19

"The federal government allocates doses of the vaccine based on population," said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian. "So we had 287,000 doses allocated to us."

As the CDC vaccine advisers voted 14-0 Tuesday to recommend Covid-19 vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds, state officials had started prepping for the rollout in October.

Bagdasarian is Michigan's new Chief Medical Executive for the state, replacing the departed Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

"We had providers starting to pre-book already last week," she said.

The child-size doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is set to be administered at locations that include school sites, pediatrician offices, and pharmacies.

"It will be given in two 10 microgram doses," Bagdasarian said. "That’s a third of the adolescent and adult dose, but again administered 21 days apart."

But not all Michigan parents are on board with getting 5- to 11-year-olds vaccinated.

"I don’t believe in shooting kids with stuff that they don’t need," said Yelle Alexander, a parent of three. "They don’t get sick, they don’t get shots, I don’t have those issues with my children. They’re very healthy."

But not all young children have been so fortunate.

"Since the start of the pandemic, about 1.9 million children in that age group, 5 to 11, have been infected," Bagdasarian said. "And that accounts for about 9 percent of all US cases.

"More than 8,300 of them have been hospitalized and 94 have died nationally."

She said she is encouraging parents to get their children the vaccine.

"Much like the adult vaccine it’s highly effective," she said. "So in clinical trials in this age group, ages 5 to 11, they found the vaccine to be 91 percent effective in preventing symptomatic covid."

The medical community calls it a game-changer in the fight against Covid.

"We have 825,000 children in that age group," she said. "So being able to vaccinate that large population, who have been completely unvaccinated until now, will really help to decrease outbreaks and transmission in schools."

And as state officials continue to monitor the Covid transmission rate in the state, they say this vaccine for kids could not come at a better time.

"We have high transmission levels around the state, things seem to be plateauing," Bagdasarian said. "But we are not fully sure. And we've got the holidays right around the corner, where we know people will be gathering.

"So having this vaccine available is just a huge benefit to our communities."