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Local leaders prepare for possible vaccine rollout for kids age 5 to 11

The vaccine could begin to be administered in November

NEW ORLEANS — If the FDA approves a two-dose Pfizer vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, it's possible shots could be administered starting early November. 

On Wednesday, the White House released guidance saying they hope to have shots given at places like community health centers, health clinics and pharmacies. Eyewitness News spoke with Ochsner leaders who say, for them, it's going to be about what's best for their families.

"It's very exciting, this is something we've had our eye on for quite some time," Matthew Malachowski, with Ochsner Health. 

Ochsner leaders are confident a vaccine rollout for children 5- to 11-years-old will happen sometime next month.

"It's the same active ingredient in the adult vaccine and it's at a different concentration," he said. "It's more dilute, it requires a different preparation than the adult vaccine."

The vaccine's fate could be decided on next week by the FDA. However, discussions are already underway at Ochsner to make sure their staff is ready to administer it.

"We're looking at the sites of deployment so that it's available to communities in the safest way and most equitable way as possible," Malachowski said. "Pediatric offices are an easy win because the parents and children are comfortable there."

Other possible locations could include pharmacies, clinics and schools. Ochsner though is still figuring out the details. 

"At this point, we're having meetings daily on how this is going to work," said pediatrician, Diana Peterson. "And we want to be ready because there's demand out there."

Peterson is a general pediatrician. She says however it's done, convenience is their top priority, that way a child's daily routine goes uninterrupted.

"In our Pediatric department we're just trying to make sure we're meeting the needs of families," she said. "So figuring out when they want to come, what context do they want to come, do they want to come to an on-site clinic or their own clinic where their pediatrician is?"

Approval is still weeks away, so there's still time to figure it all out.

"Part of this is driven by allocation and availability," Malachowski said.

However, Ochsner leaders say when the time comes, they'll be ready to get those five to eleven protected.

We reached out to Children's Hospital who sent a statement saying: 

“We are eager to see every eligible child and adult vaccinated against COVID-19.  As soon as FDA approval is granted, we will be offering vaccination to children 5 years of age or older across the Children’s Hospital New Orleans system.”

We also reached out to Jefferson Parish Public Schools to see if they're making preparations, in a statement they write: 

"The broad participation in vaccinations will reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and is an essential piece to keeping our schools and community safe. We believe strongly in the efficacy of the vaccine and encourage everyone who is eligible to receive it. We will continue to communicate information and share resources with our families and employees about vaccine opportunities."

Orleans Parish Public Schools also sent a statement who outlined their plans:

"The health of NOLA Public Schools’ students, teachers, and staff remains our top priority. Vaccinations remain integral in the preservation of in-person learning for our students and educators. Per the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccine prevents severe illness and helps control the spread of COVID-19. 
Once the FDA provides an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for 5–11-year-olds, NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS) will explore making the vaccine accessible during times parents are present on school campuses, such as school arrival and dismissal times.

In addition, NOLA-PS will focus on hosting Saturday vaccine events on school campuses near students’ homes. Students will not be required to be registered at the campus where these events take place, making it more accessible and convenient for families.

NOLA-PS is planning a town hall with pediatric specialists the first week of November to answer parents' questions and inform families about the vaccine drive rollout for students 5-11 years old. 

Pending FDA approval, the District is hoping to have its first vaccine event Saturday, Nov. 6."

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